After five years of
publishing the works of some amazing authors, Bottom Drawer Publications has
sadly closed its doors. We'd like to thank our authors for believing in us to
bring their manuscripts to the world, our contract editors for their assistance,
the bloggers and reviewers who help so much simply because of their love of
books, and last, but definitely not least, the readers who supported us all by
buying our books.
BK Publishing Trust's other
imprint, Driven Press,which publishes
general fiction, is continuing on as normal.
Morgan Campbell doesn’t know what is wrong with her. She is seeing things in the shadows everywhere—a dog that could be a wolf and a man staring up at her window. She feels like she’s losing her mind.
When she is summoned to her grandfather’s sickbed, she jumps at the chance to leave the city, and her messy life, behind. But, after a less than warm welcome at the creepy old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere with its strange inhabitants, she’s not sure she made the right decision.
And then there is the hot man who appears, naked, to save her from a pack of wolves when she strays off the track in the woods.
What Morgan discovers about the truth of her heritage will change her life forever.
Enjoy this first look at Belonging.
began to fall as Morgan left the restaurant through the kitchen door. A single
bulb cast a feeble light over the exit. Dark shadows filled the silent alley,
clustering around the dumpsters. Morgan felt eyes on her, intense, watching.
She shivered and turtled her shoulders deeper into her parka. A car drifted by
on the street at the end of the alley, its headlights flinging a slice of light
across the opposite wall. Morgan couldn’t help herself. She watched out of the
corner of her eye and, yes. For the third time in as many nights, she saw the
head. It looked like a huge dog, a shepherd perhaps, or a wolf even. The shadow
crawled across the wall as the headlights crossed the opening of the alley, the
snout elongating into a grotesque parody of itself, and then the darkness
snapped back into place.
stared, then slowly reached behind her and reopened the door. She kept her eyes
on the alley as she stepped back through the doorway into the warmth and
brightness of the kitchen. Paulo was sweeping, getting ready to close for the
something?” he asked.
shook her head. “Could you let me out the front? Please?”
gave her a sharp look. “Everything all right?”
thought I saw a dog in the alley. My imagination’s running away with me.”
Morgan managed a grin as Paulo laughed and began to sing the song by the
Rolling Stones. Morgan followed him through the darkened dining room. The white
tablecloths covering the tables looked like humped dwarfs silently watching her
in the gloom.
Paulo unlocked the front door and locked it behind her, waving good
night through the glass. Morgan waved back and stepped to the side of the
doorway. She waited, looking all around. There was nothing. At this time of
night, people were snuggled in at home and only the occasional car passed.
Morgan inched her way to the opening of the alley. She looked for anything that
might cast such a strange, wolf-like shadow. There wasn’t even a dumpster in a
likely spot. She took a deep breath and began the walk home.
The snowflakes in the light of the streetlights were pretty, sparkling
like fairy lights as they skipped to the ground. Once there, they disintegrated
to muddy slush as they melted under foot. Morgan’s apartment was three long
blocks from the restaurant. Once again she felt eyes watching. She was sure she
heard a sound behind her, footsteps, a soft splash. She began to run, dashing
from the circle of light around one streetlight to the next until the lobby
door was in front of her. Her key was already in her hand then she was through.
She closed the door and peered through the glass into the dark beyond. Just as
she turned to cross the lobby, a dark form darted across the puddle of light
formed by the streetlight out front. Morgan whirled around to stare out of the
front again. Nothing moved but the swirling snow.
Blue light flickered from the TV as Morgan entered the apartment. Carol,
her roommate and best friend, as well as co-worker at the Thai-Italian
restaurant, was still awake. She took one look at Morgan’s face and turned off the TV.
wrong?” she asked.
Morgan hung up her coat. “I think I’m losing my mind,” she said and, to
her own surprise, burst into tears.
Carol wrapped an arm around Morgan’s shoulders and led her to the couch.
She went to the kitchen and brought back two beers. “Tell me all about it,” she
Morgan did, feeling like a weight was lifting. She told how she felt
watched all the time, night and day. How she’d see a dog, a big dog, out of the
corner of her eye, but when she looked it would be gone. She told Carol she was sure she was
a dog?” Carol raised an eyebrow.
giggled. “Silly, right?”
Carol shrugged. “They say there is a lot of wildlife living in cities,
feeding off dumpsters and so on. I’ve never seen anything around the
restaurant, but you never know. Could be a raccoon or fox. I mean,” Carol
leaned in and sniffed Morgan, “you do smell like food, and now I’m hungry.”
jumped up from the couch. “I brought home left-over chicken after my shift. Do
you want some?”
Morgan’s stomach was in knots. She felt like she would never eat again.
She stood and went to look out of the window. Carol was probably right. Even a
racoon’s shadow thrown huge onto a wall like that could look like a wolf’s
snout. Or a fox. She looked down and gasped. A dark form, a man, stood at the
edge of the streetlight’s glow. His head was turned to look up at her, his face
in shadow. Watching
her, she knew.
Her heart pounding, Morgan stepped back from the window. Carol came in
carrying her plate of fried chicken. She set it down on the coffee table and
crossed to Morgan’s side where she peered out of the window. “There’s nothing
there.” She glanced at Morgan with a quizzical frown, quickly replaced with a
some chicken,” she said. “You’re barely eating these days.”
think I’ll just go to bed. Thank you, Carol. You’re probably right.” Morgan
gave her a hug.
She was tired. Her eight-hour shift had extended to ten, and she’d been
on her feet the whole time. Tired as she was, she tossed and turned all night.
awoke still tired and disoriented from her restless night. She had to rush to
shower and dress for the lunch shift. The winter sun hung low in the sky,
glowing brightly yet throwing no heat.
Morgan made it into the restaurant a few minutes late. She had hoped her
boss, Mario, wouldn’t be in yet, but, as everything seemed to be going wrong
for her these days, he was there. He scowled at her and tapped his watch. As
she hung up her coat, she suppressed a flare of temper at the injustice of him
giving her a hard time. She had been waitressing a long time, and she was good
at her job.
smiled weakly and mouthed a “sorry.”
It was Friday, a busy day for lunch. Every table was taken. Morgan
rushed from the kitchen and back, barely looking up from the plates she
balanced until something, a dark shape, a sense of being watched, made her glance out the front
plate-glass window. She saw the dark form of a man standing there. The sun was
behind him, leaving his face in shadow, but she was sure he was watching her.
She started and dropped the plate of pasta in her hands.
“I’m sorry, so sorry,” Morgan apologized to the patrons who pulled their
legs back in disgust from the splash of white sauce.
Paulo quickly came out and cleaned the mess. Morgan could feel Mario’s
furious eyes on her, and she avoided going into the back until the lunch crowd
“What is wrong with you,” he hissed when she finally had to face the
music. “You used to be such a good waitress, Morgan, but not lately. Pull
yourself together or you’ll be out of here for good.”
Morgan apologized some more, fighting back the tears. Her chin trembled
as she pulled on her coat. Couldn’t he give her the benefit of the doubt? She
didn’t know what was wrong with her. She felt like she was losing her mind.
Seeing shadows—shadows with nothing there. Anyone could have looked in the
window of a busy, well-known restaurant. It didn’t mean she had a stalker.
The tears flowed as she stumbled home. The sun was already sinking deep
into the west, the street a dark canyon. Morgan brushed angrily at her face as
she stepped out onto the crosswalk. The driver making a right turn on red
didn’t see her, and she didn’t notice the cab until she was suddenly jerked backwards. Wet slush splashed
her legs, and the cabby yelled at her. Strong arms wrapped around her, keeping
her from falling to the sidewalk. An electric shock jolted through Morgan’s
whole body, raising the hair on the back of her neck.
heart thumped wildly. The arms let her go, and she stumbled. She turned around.
A tall man stood behind her. He was holding his hands palm up, staring down at
them. His hair was long and dark, and Morgan couldn’t see his face. “Thank
you,” she said.
simply shook his head, still staring at his hands. “Oh no,” he muttered, and to
her surprise, turned and stalked away.
Morgan called after him, but with his long, loping stride he was gone around
made it back home on trembling legs; from the shock of nearly being hit or from
her reaction to the strange man, she didn’t know.
was getting dressed for her evening shift. She demanded to know what was wrong.
told her about dropping the plate, Mario saying she’d be done if it happened
again, and almost getting hit by a cab. Something stopped her from mentioning
the strange man who’d pulled her away from the car. She was afraid even Carol would start believing
she was nuts too.
“You need a night out,” Carol decided. She had her phone in her hand in
an instant. “Kayla and Lindsay are going to the Triad tonight. Kayla got the
night off just to see this DJ. We’ll join them.”
“And your shift?” Morgan asked.
“I’ll find someone who wants it.”
It didn’t take Carol long to find a replacement for a busy Friday night
shift. She texted Kayla and
Lindsay and arranged to meet.
“We’ll do it right,” Carol said. “You’ve been moping about for days.
We’ll go for a nice dinner that none of us have to serve and then dancing at
Morgan smiled and nodded. She didn’t feel much like going out,
especially not with Lindsay and Kayla. They were Carol’s friends and only
tolerated Morgan. Still, it would make Carol happy, and maybe getting drunk
would be a good thing. Wipe out her brain and start with a fresh slate. Her stomach growled so loud she and
Carol both burst out laughing.
“There’s still chicken.” Carol brought out the bucket and watched in
astonishment as Morgan ate it all.
Morgan wiped her mouth. “I had no idea I was so hungry.”
“Good to see you eating.”
Morgan took a shower, wishing the water could wash away her strange
visions as easily as the grime of the day sluiced off. She dressed in jeans and
a silk shirt, tying a shiny scarf around her neck.
Carol sighed when she came out. “Really?” she asked. “We’re going
“I’m not looking for anyone.” Morgan shrugged.
Morgan’s stomach growled again. Carol raised an eyebrow when Morgan made
herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “We’re going to dinner,” she remarked.
“This will tide me over. I’m starved.”
laughed. “Are you pregnant?”
“Right, ’cause that makes sense.” Morgan swatted at Carol, who ducked.
When Kayla and Lindsay arrived at the apartment, Kayla took one look at
Morgan’s outfit, rolled her eyes and didn’t even say hello. All three had
dressed up in clingy spaghetti-strap dresses and heels.
“Which one of these four ain’t like the others?’ Lindsay sang. “Boots
too?” She shared a look of disgust with Kayla.
“They have a heel,” Morgan said.
The women chose a restaurant that served nothing fancy, nothing fusion.
They were all in the mood for pub fare. As soon as their waitress set the
breadbasket on their table, Morgan’s stomach growled. The others were trying
not to eat so Morgan ate all the bread, loaded with butter, too. Morgan felt
flushed all of a sudden. She removed her scarf and rolled up her sleeves. Still
hungry, she ordered a steak
and baked potato with veggies and still had room for chocolate cake with
was outright gaping. “Are you sure you’re not pregnant?”
Kayla and Lindsay both looked up from their plates. “Pregnant?”
“No, no, I’m not.” Morgan glared at Carol and kicked her under the
Morgan didn’t put her coat on when they left. The cold night air felt
good on her over-heated skin. They hailed a cab to the club. Morgan hadn’t
expected to have a good time, and she didn’t. She sat, sipping at a drink, watching everyone else
enjoy themselves. After an hour or so with Kayla and Lindsay no longer speaking
to her for not even trying to have fun, even Carol had given up trying to get
her to loosen up. Morgan was uncomfortably hot and sweaty as though she had
danced all night.
She caught Carol’s eye and motioned she was leaving. Carol simply waved
from the dance floor. Morgan knew they were mad at her. She found out the next
day just how mad. At the end of her shift, Mario took her aside. “I’ve heard rumours you’re pregnant.
That would explain a lot,” he said. “You’ve been making a lot of mistakes, and
mistakes cost me money.”
Morgan spluttered her denial, but he waved it away.
“As soon as you show, you’re done here.” He stalked away. “Sue me if you
can afford it,” he called over his shoulder.
came into the kitchen. “Trouble?” She smirked.
“What’s the matter with you?” Morgan demanded. “Why would you do that?”
“What’s the matter with you?” Kayla shot back. Morgan had no answer to that. She grabbed her coat and left. What was
wrong with her? Why was
her life falling apart?
lives in Ottawa, Ontario with her family and a growing pack of dogs and cats.
Her other publications include short stories available on the webzines
littlefiction.com and spinetingler.com, as well as works on smashwords.com and
Amazon Kindle Worlds.
Today we revisit Valamine by Jane Stoker. Valamine is an InD'Tale "crowned heart of excellence" recipient and former Rone nominee. Don't miss this wonderfully fantastical and romantic book.
Valamine is a gifted healer, and her life studying with the herb witch, Elder-Sha Ameena, is peaceful. When her home is attacked and her elders slain, the fate of the land is thrust upon her with the dying breath of her mentor. Now she must leave everything she knows and journey to a far-off city to stop the forces of hell from overwhelming her world. But it isn't the daemons, hungry for her blood, making her nerves shatter and her heart pound like a tribesman’s drum, it's the two hundred and fifty pounds of lean, toned warrior sworn to keep her from harm.
Fighting is what Nyle lives for. He relishes the rush of battle, even with the odds against him and a horde of daemons bearing down on him. When he’s tasked with the latest mission, it is a seemingly simple one—protect the girl, save the world. Easy enough for a skilled warrior who prides himself on coolness under pressure. Something about the bold healer though is testing his restraint to beyond breaking, and he can’t keep his mind on the game. But if he fails and the daemons come, how can he face losing his bewitching Valamine?
Please enjoy this sample chapter from the book . . .
NYLE ROLLED DEFTLY aside as yet
another creature lashed at him. Fierce heat burned his skin as the muscular
whip grazed his neck. He flinched—he’d not been fast enough. Gritting his
teeth, he ignored the pain and sliced at the feeler. The whip-like instrument
fell to the ground still twitching. The daemon screeched and dropped to its
knees, black blood pouring from its shoulder. Beetle-black eyes squinted up at
him, pieces of flesh clung to rows of splinter-sharp teeth. It screamed and
unfurled its wings, launching itself to escape, but the warrior’s sword
flashed, and the creature dropped at his feet, dead. Another daemon landed a
few feet away. Nyle planted his feet in the mud and readied himself.
Fighting was what he lived for. Even now, with
the odds against him and a horde of daemons bearing down, he relished the rush
of battle. He was the best swordsman, the shrewdest leader; his warriors were
the strongest from all the clans. It was to him the chieftains turned when
creatures found ways into the Shaman lands, desperate to escape their own
hellish Gehenna. However, this was not normal. Today they’d been fighting for
hours, fending off feelers, teeth, claws, but the daemons just kept coming.
How had so many found a way through at the same
time? He hated not knowing. He needed to capture one of these hellions and pry
the truth from it with the tip of his blade. But for the first time he was
beginning to consider the unthinkable, the possibility of rounding up the other
three warriors and calling a tactical retreat.
The snarling daemon advanced. Nyle turned
slightly to meet it to find his second in command, Sabre, was just behind him
facing down another daemon from the opposite direction. Nyle smiled grimly;
Sabre was a good man to have at your back.
Sabre tilted his head back and spoke in his usual
gruff tone. “I thought we were just going to head off a few troglets, then
spend the evening with a harem of grateful Shaman witches,” he paused to parry
a blow, “not fighting an army of
ażote.” He wiped something dark and pulpy from his cheek with the back of his
Nyle grimaced as he dodged a claw. “I’d rather be
here fighting, Sabre, than cooped up in a dusty library with a bunch of
A whip-like feeler struck out as the daemon
attacked again; Sabre turned and caught the feeler in a massive leather bound
fist as Nyle lunged for the creature’s heart.
Nyle took a breath and rounded on the next
creature. “University women? They’d probably think themselves way above your
rank, my friend.”
Sabre snorted and raised his massive blade,
cleaving an approaching creature in two. “In my experience, Captain, educated
Shaman witches have much lower standards than one might expect.”
The onslaught eased for a moment. “You sound like
Torin,” said Nyle, wiping the sweat from his brow. Torin was Nyle’s archer, a
warrior who had the power to shoot fire from his hands, as well as the
seemingly magical ability to bed any woman he desired.
Sabre heaved his broad sword from the decimated
daemon. “I can’t compete with Torin on that score, nor would I want to. It must
be exhausting. So where is old firefingers?”
Nyle looked around over the carnage. At least
twenty daemons lay slain. Yet another was circling readying to land. “Torin!”
he called. A white light crashed into the creature above them causing it to
burst into white-hot flames. A blond warrior came into view through the smoke,
rubbing his hands together. “Well . . . this was not what I was expecting.”
Nyle groaned and wiped his sword on a patch of
grass. “Yes, I know. You were hoping for more pretty witches, less death-wielding
ażote monsters . . .” Nyle grunted as another ażote came into
view. “Well, this is the life you signed up for. Where’s Alyssa?”
Torin reached for a regular arrow and nocked it,
giving the power in his hands time to recharge. He let a shaft fly; the thunk of arrow meeting flesh confirmed
he’d found his mark. The monster hung its horned head and looked at the arrow
protruding from its chest before collapsing with a snarl. The archer nodded to
a clearing a few yards away; a large pile of daemon bodies lay bleeding into
the earth, and the screams of dying ażote could be heard bouncing off the
trees. “She’s working out some issues.”
Alyssa, the only woman he’d ever trained, hated
ażote over any other being from Gehenna. She’d dived into the fray without
hesitation; her usual icy demeanour replaced by something that had looked to
Nyle suspiciously like bloodthirsty glee.
Nyle looked up and took in a quick breath. Twenty
or so ażote were darting through the air towards them. It was as if every azote
that had escaped into the land—from his mountain home in the north to the
southern isles—had suddenly converged in this place. But why? He gripped his sword firmly and concentrated on relaxing
his shoulders. Kill daemons now, ask
Suddenly the creatures stopped as one and hung in
Alyssa ran over to them, her preferred choice of
weapon, a braided whip, coiled in her hands. Her long, pale plaits hung in
clumps, black with blood, and her face was streaked with gore. Her eyes,
however, shone with a fierce blue fever. “What are they doing?” She uncoiled
her whip. “Why don’t they attack?” then louder, “Come here, you base wretches. Come here so I can flay the leather hide
from your bones.”
Nyle raised his hand and Alyssa fell silent. Of
all the weird things he’d seen these last few weeks, the increased incursions
and the patterns in the attacks, this was the weirdest. A trickle of sweat ran
over the base of his spine, and he suppressed a shiver.
All four warriors stood in the muddy clearing
watching the creatures hover.
“Why don’t they attack?” whispered Sabre.
Nyle frowned. He’d spent years tracking creatures
like these, through this realm and the hellish Gehenna. Daemons fought each
other, often ate each other; they
were chaotic and violent and consumed with hunger. But these winged horrors
looked like they were listening to something—but to what? Another bead of cold sweat traced down his back. If
something, someone, could organise
these beasts . . .
The ażote stayed twenty feet up in the gloaming
sky, floating in a perfect circle with just a slight movement in their scaly
wings to keep them airborne.
A thud to his left made Nyle wrench his eyes from
the eerie sight.
Torin was kneeling in the mud, his hands over his
ears. Nyle bent down towards his archer. “What is it, Torin? Speak to me.” He
touched Torin’s face; the archer was a cold as ice. Was this a spell, some kind
of magic the ażote possessed but had never shown? No they would have felled him
and his brothers many times over if they could have. “What is it, warrior?
“A voice . . . it’s talking to the
ażote. I can hear it. Ahh, it’s like I can feel it speak—as if it’s inside me.”
Torin’s voice was strained, and he twitched as he spoke. “It says . . .
the herb witch . . . at the university. Her magic holds the
rift . . . closed. The pack make for her . . .
we . . . the ażote are . . . summoned.” He looked
up, as did the other three warriors. The creatures above, as one, turned to the
east and sailed silently into the night sky.
“Who, Torin, who’s talking to you?” asked Alyssa,
a worried edge to her tone.
But Torin didn’t answer. He raised his head and
met Nyle’s stare. Torin’s eyes were pale and blank, like the eyes of a baked
fish. The archer grinned, not the handsome smile that usually came so easily,
but a wolfish grimace twisting his face into something ugly. But it was his
voice that made Nyle take a step back, a bitter rasp that did not belong to his
brethren are coming! They will own you, use your women, and feed your
children’s hearts to us.” Torin snarled and pushed his hand out towards
Nyle. A white light flashed, and the captain ducked. A shot of pure energy went
just over Nyle’s head, scorching a nearby tree.
Sabre fell on Torin pushing him into the mud and
kneeling on his back. Torin struggled a moment then stilled.
“Torin?” Nyle barked. “Torin, look at me!” He
gestured for Sabre to release him. Sabre hesitated before reluctantly getting
up, but he stayed close to the archer, poised and ready.
Torin groaned and rolled over. He faced Nyle, his
eyes now back to their usual deep green. He sat up and looked at the smoking
tree behind his captain then down at his own hands. “I . . . oh
goddess, I’m sorry. What did I . . .? I remember
but . . .”
“Don’t worry about it now.” Nyle stood, and
Alyssa helped Torin to his feet. The archer was shaking.
Nyle would need to get Torin looked at by a
healer, but that would have to wait. “When you were entranced, you said
something about a herb witch?”
Torin ran his hand over his face and nodded. “The
voice . . . it told us . . . I mean it told the ażote to kill her . . .
that she was protecting something . . . something
important . . . a rift.” Torin rubbed his forehead and winced.
Nyle turned to Sabre. “You and Alyssa get the
horses. We need to find this herb witch.” And
we need to make it to the university before monsters, organised monsters,
“We can’t ride as fast as they fly,” said Sabre
as he led the horses into the clearing.
“They may stop to feed.” Alyssa’s voice was grim
as she mounted.
Nyle nodded, taking his horse’s reins from Sabre
and shifting himself into the saddle. He’d seen the aftermath of an ażote
feeding frenzy; such horror would haunt him until his death.
“And if they don’t?” asked Sabre from his horse.
Nyle didn’t answer, but as he worked his mount up
into a gallop, he hoped that there might be a few magic makers at the
university whose power was of the more battle ready kind—ones that could fight
off a horde of daemons.
He doubted it.
VALAMINE WATCHED the old woman’s
features become less pained as she sipped the broth. Her teacher’s migraines
were becoming more frequent and this worried her.
“This is good. You’ve made it perfectly.” The
Elder-Sha smiled and leant back in the chair.
Valamine took the empty mug from her teacher and
frowned. “You should let me do a proper analysis. If you just let me lay my
hands on . . .”
“No.” Elder-Sha Ameena closed her eyes as she
spoke. “I will stick to herbs and preparations—your gift is better used
Valamine shook her head but kept quiet. It would
take little effort on her part to use her goddess-given power to find the root
of these headaches and cure them for good, instead of messing around with
thistle milk and dried thyme. Her teacher’s mistrust of healing magic was
Elder-Sha Ameena sighed. “Have I failed to teach
you anything over the last seven years, child? You must learn your
preparations, Valamine, and they will serve you as well if not better than your
magic. Healing power has its limits.”
Valamine sighed. “Yes, Elder-Sha, but if I could
only . . .?”
“How is Layla? Resting, I hope.”
It was a blatant change of subject, but Valamine
let it slide. “I think so. She went off to bed after supper. She was tired from
the trials today.”
“Good. She will need all of her strength for the
advanced trials tomorrow. Elder-Sha Paulo will not have made it easy for her.”
Valamine nodded. Her best friend was expected to
gain the highest level possible in physical magic. For a year now, her power
had outstripped even what the Elder-Sha had taught her, much to his
ill-concealed annoyance. Valamine, on the other hand, hadn’t even been entered
into a basic trial. She’d dropped it all together in her first year, without
regret, due to the fact that she didn’t possess the physical magic required to
boil a pan of water. So what if she couldn’t lift a boulder. She could mend a
knife wound. Not that there were many stabbings at the university, none
actually; the closest she’d got to actual battle healing was salving the burned
fingers of hapless kitchen maids, but she could—in theory at least.
Elder-Sha Ameena yawned. “Valamine, be a poppet
and bring me that blanket.”
Valamine spread the quilt over her teacher and
dimmed the light. She would miss her most after graduation. The old woman’s
love had turned her from a surly, miserable child into a confident healer. Valamine looked down at her dark, creased face, so familiar, so unchanging; the
face she turned to for council, for encouragement.
“Goodnight, Elder-Sha,” she whispered and left
her snoring softly in the darkness.
She left Ameena’s chambers and stood on the
landing, torn on which direction to go. Layla was no doubt tucked up in bed in
the room they shared upstairs. That was where she should go, Valamine thought,
to get some sleep and be well rested for her medical exams tomorrow. But
something kept her alert.
The wind whined through the old stone walls of
the university, and the rain beat down on the shutters. She thought she
detected a soft hum behind the wind, a single breath waiting to be exhaled. She
turned, half expecting to see someone hovering in the gloom, but the corridor
was empty, just the soft glow of a few, low hanging, light spheres. She
She would never get to sleep in this storm.
Turning right, she descended a curving flight of stone steps. At least she
could get in some last minute revision, she thought as she made for the
library. Tomorrow’s exams would be the hardest ones yet. She would make sure
she was as prepared as possible—no matter what tests she might face.
NYLE IGNORED the exhaustion
cramping his shoulders, he ignored the biting rain that stung his face, and
kept riding, driven by the echo of the daemon’s words—the brethren are coming . . .
The bulk of the university loomed darkly on the
horizon. The airborne creatures hadn’t stopped to feed and would get there
before him. Regardless, he rode harder, motioning for his company to do the
After what seemed like an age, the great edifice
grew larger before him. Columns and spires rose high against the lightening
skyline. A flash of red illuminated the landscape; whether the source was
inside the university or outside, he couldn’t tell. Red was the colour of
witches’ magic. Could they hold the gates against the hoard? A handful of
teachers and untrained youths?
Sabre rode up alongside the warrior and shouted
to him over the beating hooves; his friend’s usual relaxed expression was gone,
replaced with a grim scowl. “The Shaman are putting up a fight! There may still
Nyle kept his eyes on the track. “Healers,
stone-smiths, academics. No, Sabre, the Shaman magic does not lend itself well
to battle. We’ll be lucky if the creatures haven’t laid waste to the whole
Another flash of red reflected off the clouds.
Sabre nodded. “I believe some can raise shields.
She may still be alive.”
“Our best hope is that the ażote are distracted
by the students and do not go straight for her.” It was a grim affair when your
most likely chance of success depended on the slaughter of juveniles. Nyle put
the thought from his mind. “Tell Torin and Alyssa—our priority is to find the
Sabre nodded and fell back.
Nyle could just about make out a number of winged
shapes circling the highest turret. Hoping fervently that the Shaman were,
indeed, able to hold out a short while longer, he crouched farther down into
the saddle and quickened his pace as dawn tinged the indigo sky.
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