World-Building with Mermaids

Yesterday, I hit the 30,000 word mark with my first mermaid book. WOO-HOO!!! The average length of my books is 80,000, though I shoot for 90,000 words to allow for cuts during the editing process.  This means I am about 1/3 of the way there.  WOO-HOO!!!

My goal is to finish writing by the end of July. Then it goes out to my editors and beta-readers (speaking of, my list of beta-readers is growing, but if you are interested, see my post here). Final release date (crossing fingers until they turn white) is September 2013.

So, at the 30,000 mark, I’m done setting up most of my undersea world, introduced in bits and pieces throughout so it doesn’t come off as one big info-dump. I have to admit, this is the slowest I’ve ever written a book because I have to stop every few sentences to research something. Seriously – by the time I’m done with the series, I might just have to apply my research toward a Marine Biologist degree! I’ve even emailed a professor at Stanford specializing in ocean acidification with questions Google can’t answer, and I get a quick response! Note to self: include him in my acknowledgments.

World building is a difficult thing, and so you may ask, what does my mermaid world like? Below are some answers (just some – can’t give away all my hard work, yet), followed by a short excerpt.  Let me know what you think!

mermaid 2
Want to see some more awesome mermaid pics? Check out my Pinterest page: http://pinterest.com/terraharmony/mermaids/ and be sure to follow it!

What do mermaids call themselves, their kingdom, humans, the earth above, etc.? In my story, they call themselves ‘undine’ which means ‘water fairy’. Humans are ‘ungainly’ (meaning clumsy or awkward), and the human world above seas is called ‘The Dry’ (this one seems a little cheesy, so I may change it – feel free to offer ideas). The undine community is ‘Society’.

How is the ruling party structured? There is a king advised by his second-in-command and his council. The council is selected by the king himself and consists of the most powerful members of Society (head of the guard, head caste or ‘school’ master, etc.). All male undine join the king’s guard, simply because there are so few males left. There are about a dozen of them compared to maybe 300 females.

What is their schooling like? All undine attend school until they are 16 years of age. Each year is a different ‘caste’ (thus, caste master (school teacher), caste mates, etc.) At graduation, they enter The Choosing. They select three potential jobs they would like to spend the rest of their life doing, then during a ceremony are told what they are given. Most (and that is the key word – MOST) are given one of their three choices.

What do they eat? I just got done writing this part, and learned some very interesting facts myself! I found a very interesting article to help. Basically, the sea is an especially potent source of minerals. Whereas terrestrial vegetables are limited to what they can obtain from the soil, sea vegetables spend their entire lives luxuriating in the world’s largest, oldest, most complete mineral bath. They soak it up and are among the richest sources of iodine, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, manganese, and all other (56 of ‘em in total) minerals essential to the human body.

Basically, undine eat the dozens upon dozens of edible seaweed, plus fish and crustaceans. Our main character is a vegetarian, though. 😉


Where do they live?
The setting is in the waters of British Columbia, the northern pacific ocean. Browning Pass, to be specific, between the mainland and Vancouver Island. The undine live in underwater caverns, some which become flooded during high tide, and empty during low tide. For the most part, undine are protected from curious humans by dangerously quick currents running through the pass.

How do they have sex and give birth? Like fish or mammals? (I promise, this is a YA book – but this question is always on the tip of my tongue when I think about mermaids.) The undine in my series transform into their human forms to mate and give birth. Although they can transform at will (and it is painful for them), they only consummate and give birth during the full moon.

Where do the werewolves come in? Here is the exciting part! A while back, werewolves were actually created by undine to protect them on land while they mate and give birth – which is why werewolves only change during the full moon.

What is the conflict? Werewolves viewed their status almost as ‘slaves’ to the undine, so they revolted. It was a one-night blood bath, during the full moon, when several undine were giving birth, including the queen herself. The queen, the newborn prince, and several others were killed. In fact, the only one to come out alive was our main character, Serena. She grew up as an orphan, and because of the werewolf uprising, is one of the last undine to be born. The species as a whole is on the decline because of 1) ocean acidification and 2) they are unable to procreate.

 

So there is the start of my world! It isn’t everything, and though I may reveal more later, you’ll just have to read the book to get all of it. Below is a short excerpt, you can read the first chapter here (after the call for beta readers).

 

When Serena reaches the surface, bobbing between Vancouver Island and the mainland, the sun is already sinking into the ocean. Already, she can spot the outline of the moon behind her. It is waning, and though it may look the part of a full moon there will be no werewolves tonight.

Normally, she can swim in the shadows cast by seagulls skimming the waves for their dinner, moving in closer to shore undetected. This evening the skies are as deserted as is the thin strip of beach. A light rain begins to fall and thunder cracks in the distance.

Serena disappears below the water, resurfacing down the stream. Her eyes scan the shoreline for signs of life; ungainly or otherwise. Werewolves aren’t the only animal to inhabit these forests. Grizzly bears, coyotes, and the most concentrated population of cougars in North America all patrol the borders where Serena’s world ends.

She appears further up the coast. The rain is falling harder now, and lightning flashes in the distance as though the sky goddess herself is giving her the all clear.

One powerful push and Serena is caught up in the breakers. She swims just below the whitecaps, a mirror image of a surfer gliding on a wave. One of her fins slice up, catching a taste of briny air.

All too soon, the earth below angles up to meet the sky above, and the ocean disappears in a squeeze between them. Serena’s smile grows wider, as it always does when she flirts with the edge of the world.

She somersaults with the dying wave, fins brushing sand, air, sand, air. On the next flip, a cold wind scrapes against the bottom of her feet, freshly formed, still raw from scales retracting in. Tucking her legs for one more roll, she straightens them to stand. She sinks into wet sand as the remnants of a once powerful wave lick at her ankles; a desperate attempt to call her back into its clutches.

Serena moves forward, toward the moon. It is another force, almost as powerful as the ocean, calling to the undine maiden.

‘Earth’, Free First Chapter and NaNoWriMo

Yesterday morning I embarked on a journey. A 50,000 word journey. That’s right folks, it is NaNoWriMo time (National Write a Novel in a Month). Why, oh, why do they insist on starting it the day after Halloween? Each year, I stay up too late, drink too much wine,  and worse – eat way too much chocolate. The morning after a chocolate binge is never pretty.

But I was determined to start my journey out on the right foot. I used that foot to stumble to the kitchen, and on my way to the coffee machine, managed to bypass this:

That’s right – I didn’t pause to clean the dang kitchen. Coffee in hand, I moaned my way to my laptop, bypassing this:

Yep. Didn’t take out the trash…or the recycling. Yay, me! I sat down and finished up my daily goal; 2,000 words before the kids got up. By the end of the month, I’ll have finished up ‘Earth, Book Four of the Akasha Series’ and get started on a brand new series. Speaking of, I recently posted the first chapters of ‘Water‘, ‘Air‘, and ‘Fire‘. Wanna read the first chapter of ‘Earth’?

Please keep in mind it is a rough draft; hasn’t been through any editors. The rest of the book will follow…next Spring!

Earth, Chapter One: Inside Voices

The Greenbrier is a Cold War era underground bunker buried 720 feet into the hillside of White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia. Each of the four entrances are protected by large steel and concrete doors designed to withstand a nuclear blast. Alex and I were standing outside the gated fence, trying to figure out how to break in.

“The west and east entrances are vehicular tunnels,” said Alex, handing me his binoculars. “This one here is the west entrance.”

I focused the binoculars in on a large ‘high voltage’ warning sign at the door.

“Do you think Akasha can burn through that baby?” Alex asked.

“Maybe,” I sighed, handing the binoculars back. “But do we really want to risk a high-profile entrance?”

Footsteps in the woods to our backs caused us both to duck down. I peered under a thick, prickly bush. Susan’s footsteps came into view. I stood, unsuccessfully avoiding sharp thorns.

“Ow!”

Susan started at my outburst. Bee squealed with delight, “Mommy!”

She ran straight for me, and the thorns. “Oh, honey – watch out!” I scooped her up before she suffered the same fate. She squealed again.

“More!” She demanded as soon as I set her down.

“Um, excuse me everyone – we are in surveillance mode here. We need to use our inside voices.”

“Tell that to the two-year old,” I said. Alex was right, but leaving Bee behind wasn’t exactly an option.

Bee took the hint and ran to Alex, “More Unka Alek, more!”

He smiled down at her, “I can’t refuse my best lady. But can you be quiet when I lift you up?”

She nodded her head as fast as she could, practically hopping in anticipation. Alex lifted her up so fast her feet flew in the air above her head. To her credit, not one sound escaped her lips. She could be quiet if she wanted; she just had to be properly motivated.

“What did you find out?” I asked Susan.

“Hotel is operational. Well, as far as hotels can be, these days. But the tours have been cancelled since Daybreak. Electricity is too unreliable to lead tourists underground.”

“Either that, or the facilities are actually in use.” Alex said.

Bee automatically demanded more lifts at his sudden shift in focus. I dug around in my backpack for the stash of honeysuckle I found the day before. “Here,” I handed her the entire bag. “Let the grownups plan their break in.”

“Bake in, bake in,” chanted Bee, plopping down on the ground, already diving in to her new treat.

I smiled, then turned back to the west entrance and frowned. “Let’s camp out for a night – see if there is any activity in or out.”

“What about the other entrances?” Alex asked.

“We could split up,” I suggested.

Susan groaned. “I hate spending the night alone, outside.”

You won’t be outside. You can go back to the hotel; find out more.” Alex said.

“And you won’t be alone, you’ll have Bee.” I said. The three of us looked down at her, still sitting at our feet. Several white flowers already sat crumpled by her side, having been deprived of all their sweet nectar.

In a world with only intermittent power, traditional packaged goods – including candy – along with a long list of other necessities, were scarce. Honeysuckle soon became a treat of choice. Last fall, we also discovered its medicinal properties when Alex came up with a concoction infused with honeysuckle and applied it to the poison ivy rash that covered my legs. After that, I had traded all of my shorts for a few pairs of Susan’s pants. They were long, but a few rolls around my ankles added protection from poisonous plants and bugs.

“Let’s meet back here an hour after dawn tomorrow,” Alex said.

Susan stuck out her lip.

Alex rolled his eyes, “Ok, two hours after dawn. Put that lip back in before I bite it.”

Susan smiled, raising one eyebrow, “Bite me and I’ll bite you back.” She moved a step closer to him.

“Is that a promise?” he asked, closing the distance between them.

I turned my back just in time to hear kissing sounds. The open romance between Alex and Susan was a long time coming, and I was happy for both of them, but with every passing day it made me long for Micah more and more. He’d been missing since a few weeks before Daybreak.

The kissing noises were still coming. I sighed and squat down by Bee, “It’s rude to stare, honey.” The few honeysuckle that remained were forgotten.

She shifted her gaze to me, stuck out her lips and said, “Kiss, kiss!”

I laughed an obliged, then gathered her in my arms, “You’re going to stay with Aunt Susan tonight. Be good, okay?”

“Otay!”

I kissed her again.

“Enough with the smooching you two,” Susan interrupted. I passed Bee over. “We’re going to be late for girl’s night out.”

“Make sure she gets a bath – and check her for ticks.” I dug in my backpack for the only bar of soap the four of us shared.

“We’ll do the usual pampering session,” Susan promised.

“And you get double duty tomorrow night.” I said.

“Done.” A night out of the woods was totally worth it for Susan.

“Bye, Bee.”

She waved, and I watched them walk away as Bee fiddled with the soap.

“She’ll be fine, mama.” Alex said, slinging his arm over my shoulder.

“I know. I just wish…” I trailed off. Alex didn’t need to hear all about how Micah was missing out on Bee, again.

“You wish what?” he asked.

I leaned into him, nose first, and sniffed. “I wish we had another bar of soap.”

___________

Hope you liked it!  I would love to get feedback on this chapter.  Please comment or feel free to email me at: terra.harmony11@gmail.com. Don’t forget to get ‘Water, Book One’ now free pretty much everywhere as an ebook.  ‘Air, Book Two‘ is at a special price of $2.99.

‘Fire, Book Three’ Free First Chapter

Happy Friday! I feel like this is going to be a great weekend – and I have no idea why. Hope it turns out good for all of us. Here is something to start you out; the first chapter of ‘Fire, Book Three of the Akasha Series’.  Word of caution – this gets a little graphic. The second book left off with Kaitlyn in labor, alone on a boat navigation the Southern Ocean. Readers were left with the ultimate cliffhanger, so this first chapter couldn’t disappoint!

Chapter 1: Waves of Pain

The fireball shot out of my hand, straight into one of the cupboards, blowing shards of pressed wood everywhere. Bits of flame flared up around the large captain’s bridge on the boat. I bent over, uncontrollable pain wracking my body. The coaching I received on labor pains did nothing.

Imagine riding on top of the wave of pain, instead of sinking beneath them.

I laughed out loud at the irony. Little did the doctor know I’d be in the middle of the Southern Ocean, on my own, navigating literal waves.

The contraction subsided, and I stumbled to the other side of the room to retrieve the fire extinguisher. The foamy, white goo was probably almost gone. With little hope of being able to reign in my powers, I was digging my own grave.

I paused before aiming the extinguisher over what was left of the cupboard. Most of the windows had blown out, and the cold wind, along with the freezing droplets of ocean, was quickly turning my hands blue; the rest of my body was bound to follow. Fire might be a good thing. But there was no way to control it. I forced my numb hand to squeeze the handle, extinguishing the flames before they could burn the ship right out from under me.

I hobbled over to the Doppler machine, checking to see if anyone was on my tail before another contraction came. I hadn’t blown up that machine, yet. Only one dot on the screen; my boat. Everyone I left behind on Heard and McDonalds Islands would still be there, recovering from the battle. Cato was dead, killed by the traitor Vayu – now also dead.

Susan had a boat, but she was on the opposite end of the island and had no idea I was gone. Alex would be helping Micah out of the crater formed from my earthquake.

Micah. A new wave of pain was mounting, physically and mentally this time. I let the contraction take me, nearly pulling me under and drowning me. This one I deserved. This one was my punishment for leaving Micah, depriving him of his family and the wonderful life he envisioned for us. This one left me in tears.

I am so sorry, Micah. Please forgive me. Please understand.

Even if he should find me, which he wouldn’t, nothing would go back to the way it was. Nothing would be the same.

I wiped my cheeks dry, and crawled over to my makeshift bed – a mattress on the floor. I looked over at the bassinet, ready to receive the life inside me. If only we could survive this; which was looking more doubtful by the minute.

Another contraction. Already? They were practically right on top of each other now, giving me no time to recover. It gripped my entire mid-section, muscles squeezing until I thought they would explode. I moved to my hands and knees, trying to concentrate on something. I looked out the window at the gray sky and sea, which blurred into one, never-ending ocean of nothing. I held my breath through the contraction, and my vision went wavy. The pain dulled slightly, making it a little more manageable. This contraction seemed to last forever, and I hadn’t even crested the wave yet.

The wind picked up outside. I blinked and my vision cleared. A tornado had formed directly in the path of my boat.

I want the fireballs back.

I launched my body toward the wheel and turned it, hard. The boat lurched in response. I considered turning back for the islands. I might be safer fighting Shawn than fighting myself.

My contraction peaked, rendering mind and body useless. The boat stopped its forward momentum, pausing as I rode the waves of pain, then was pulled backward, into the tornado. Although the contraction was subsiding, I couldn’t do anything but watch as I was drawn closer and closer into a vortex of spinning wind and water.

Thank God.

Thank God I did not do this in a hospital or even around other people. I couldn’t imagine the consequences. How did the other Gaias manage?

The doctor told me of two Gaias he helped during labor. For one the baby hadn’t survived, the other, the mother hadn’t.

I looked at the tornado. This would be why.

As the contraction ceased, so did the tornado. I dreaded the ride the next one would bring, and it was only seconds away. I pushed myself off the ground, groaning, and hurried to put the boat back on course for Perth, the largest city in Western Australia.

Confidence that I would ever make it was waning. I collapsed on the floor, too drained to even pull myself back to the mattress. My body temperature spiked, the ice-cold ocean spray hitting me through the shattered windows actually felt good.

As another contraction started, a lump of despair rose up in my throat. I can’t do this. What was I thinking? I need to turn back. But I was closer to my destination than my departure point by now.

The pain quickly rose to new heights. I bit my lower lip and tasted coppery blood. It was not a good enough distraction. Having no other choice, I screamed out loud, my shriek lost among the ocean waves surrounding me. The water grew more and more intense until every last wave was double the size of my boat, threatening to engulf me.

The boat made stomach-flipping drops, tilting to one side so much I thought it would tip. Then it leveled out and went to the other side; like a carnival ride. Except this time I wasn’t throwing my hands in the air. My fingers curled into the floor, cracking my nails. Just as I reached the peak of the contraction, I felt something inside drop. There was an unbearable pressure between my legs, accompanied with the urgent need to push. I held out, remembering what I could of movie births. Wait for it, take a breath. Breathe…breathe….it was almost over. I reached down and felt between my legs. Something hard where only soft should be. The head! My baby was almost here!

I waited a few more seconds until the contraction came. Then I pushed. I pushed through my gut, every muscle in my body tensed. My vision went blurry again but a new wave of adrenaline came to me and I used it to focus. Another quick breath, and then more pushing. The contraction came and went, and I had made no more progress.

I started to panic. What if she was suffocating? A million things could go wrong, and my baby was stuck.

One more time, I told myself. She’ll be ok. Give it one more contraction and then you can panic.

Before the thought finished forming, the next contraction came.

“This is it,” I said aloud, my voice rough, foreign-sounding. I pushed, determined to make it work. If she didn’t come out this time, I’d seriously consider putting the scalpel in the first aid kit to good use.

I pushed with everything I had left, not saving one ounce of energy for future contractions. It was now or never.

Everything tensed and strained, except my voice. My vocal chords were paralyzed. Pushing all of that energy out, I felt the elemental magic welling up within me. Shit, shit, shit, I thought. This time it wouldn’t just be a fireball, or a tornado. I could survive both of those, I had proven it. Instead, the elements were intertwining; I felt them knitting together inside me as if they knew exactly what to do.

Please no, please no, I thought. Nothing good would come of this. I couldn’t concentrate on both my labor and my magic. I had to pick one and go with it. At this point, I went with the only one I felt slightly more in control of; the labor.

On my back now, I lifted up my chin, trying to see something over my big, round belly. I put my hands down between my legs, feeling frantically. One quick breath, then I pushed again. I could feel her downward progress within me. It felt like fire. I hoped to God my powers weren’t harming the baby. More burning and finally, I felt her. Her large round head emerged into my hands. I pulled gently, but she didn’t come out further. Frantically, I turned her head, hoping the body would follow, and pushed again. Her shoulders popped out and then the rest of her.

Everything seemed to unleash itself at once. A final wave of energy burst out of the captain’s bridge, spraying bits of glass, laminate, and particle wood out and into the ocean. The atmosphere outside absorbed the mix of elements and then – everything went calm. The wind receded to a light, cool breeze, the waves evened out, and for the first time in hours the boat slowed to a gentle rocking motion.

I looked down at the tiny, pink, wrinkly baby in my hands, still slippery with blood and mucus. I gasped in deep, frantic breaths, laughing and hyperventilating all at the same time. I scooted over to the mattress and bassinette, wrapping a blanket around her, with an awkward twist around the umbilical cord. I worked to get my breathing under control, but tears were now streaming down my face, making it difficult to see.

She was still, eyes closed. And not crying.

She needs to cry; they always cry in the movies. I turned her face down in my arms, and gave her a light pop on the bottom. Still nothing. I took a deep breath. Don’t panic. One more spank and then panic.

The next spank elicited tiny, pathetic mewling. I turned her over, laughing again, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry – but you’re alive! My sweet baby girl!”

A quick check in the blanket confirmed it. The doctor was right – a girl.

Another contraction caused me to take a sharp breath in, and her umbilical cord reminded me. I laid her down on the mattress, still wrapped in her blanket. I brought myself to a sitting position and pushed again.

The afterbirth came out. I avoided looking at it, but glanced at the cord, still attached to the baby. Guess I’d have to make good use of that scalpel after all.

Lying on my side, I washed her as best I could with what water bottles and towels I had with me. Her mewling subsided. Her limbs moved in involuntary jerks as she got used to her body. My cooing was awkward and goofy. Not all motherly instincts came naturally.

A quick glance at her face showed me her eyes were now open, but I looked away. The color of her eyes may reveal who her father is. I had other things to think about. The rest of her was still a mess. Puffy and red from the labor, she resembled what I could only label as demon spawn.

I continued rubbing her down, counting fingers and toes, making sure her ears were clear.

Micah or Shawn?

I suppose in a way, I would feel relieved if she weren’t Micah’s. It would make my running off with her a little more bearable for him, had he learned the truth. But if she were Shawn’s, I’d have to take extra care to make sure she stayed well away from him. And should authorities get involved, they’d insist he’d get parental rights.

Ten fingers and ten toes. Had we been in a hospital, by now she would have been weighed, maybe received a few shots and whatever tests they do in hospitals.

“We don’t need those needles. No we don’t, no we don’t, do we?” I cooed at her.

She calmed a little further at the sound of my voice.

Wind blew in through gaping holes in the captain’s bridge, covering us both in the open artic chill. I moved her back to my chest, letting skin-to-skin contact heat us both. She started mewling again, now rooting with her mouth.

Oh shit, I thought. Does she need to eat already?

I shrugged. She was my daughter, after all.

Wholly unprepared, I took in a deep breath and guided her mouth to my nipple. A painful pinch, and I quickly pushed her away. She started crying now, with gusto.

Glad one of us found our voice.

I tried again, this time using one hand to position my nipple while my other arm pushed her into me. The pain wasn’t quite as intense, or I was better prepared; one of the two.

I felt her feather-light tongue against me as she sucked. I had no idea if anything was coming out, but she seemed happy enough. Almost right away, I had another contraction.

“What the hell; is there another one in there?” I tried breathing through it. It wasn’t nearly as intense, but plenty painful, especially after everything I had just been through.

The baby’s position was disturbed by my tensing arms. She popped off my breast, and cried again.

“Oh, sorry baby.” I moved her to the other side, “Gotta keep them even.”

This time was easier, and definitely less painful as she latched on, but again, another contraction. “Are you kidding me?” I bent over, careful not to disturb her feeding.

After the contraction subsided, I leaned back into the wall, utterly exhausted. The baby fell asleep in my arms. I swaddled her again using what blankets were left, nestled her in the crook of my arm and lay over on my side; sleep catching up with me faster than I cared to admit.

_________________________________________________

Stay tuned – next post I’ve decided to release the first chapter of the final book of the Akasha Series, ‘Earth’. In the meantime, if you haven’t started yet, you can get ‘Water, Book One’ as an ebook for free, ‘Air, Book Two’ at the special price of $2.99 and ‘Fire, Book Three’ for $4.99.  Happy reading!

‘Air, Book Two’ Free First Chapter

Oh geez, I’ve got a cold…and a stomach thing…and like half my kids have it too.  I just realized two posts ago I promised the first chapter of each of my books, then didn’t continue.  Sorry!  But in case you missed the news flash, ‘Fire, Book Three of the Akasha Series‘ is now available!!! Except for iBooks (grrr) – still not available there.  It’s been submitted but their approval process can take forevs.

Anyway, here is the first chapter to ‘Air, Book Two of the Akasha Series‘. Enjoy!

__________________________________

Chapter 1: Breath of Life

“I can see my breath.”

There was no response from the small, handheld radio nestled in my thick glove.

I clicked on the talk button again. “Did you hear me, Micah? I said I can see my breath. Time to go.”

Finally, a voice answered, though not through the radio. Do you not understand the concept of silent ops?

He was using our telepathic connection. I immediately shut it down. There were things in my head he need not know – not yet anyway. I couldn’t take the chance he would find them while tooling around in there. I clicked the radio again. “Then why did you bring the radios?”

I could almost hear his frustrated huff through the vast expanse of the Pennsylvania pine forest that lay between us. He had explained it to me before we separated; the handhelds were there in case we suspected someone intruding on our telepathic connection.

He came back, over the radio this time, and said, “I am almost to the cabin. Let me just check it out and then we can go. I am going silent – for real this time.”

“Don’t you dare turn off the—” my best warning voice was cut off by the hum of the radio, letting me know I was no longer connected to my counterpart. It was tit for tat with us.

I huffed, the same way I imagined him doing it. My breath formed a cloud of fog that lingered lazily in front of my face. I played with it, sucking it back in, then blowing out to form bigger clouds, and swishing it away with my hands. Anything to keep my mind off the cold. The wind picked up as clouds moved into the valley, darkening the midnight sky further.

I squinted, trying to pinpoint the cabin in the dark. The moon, fully hidden behind thick clouds, was no help. We had tracked Shawn this far, despite my protests. In my opinion, it had been far too easy – like following bread crumbs. But Micah’s need for vengeance surpassed my own.

Giving up on the cabin, I exhaled again. A gust of cold wind met the fog. I narrowed my eyes. This gust had come in against the oncoming storm. I watched as my breath cloud was sucked into an invisible black hole and disappeared, sizzling as it went. The wind followed its trail, straight into my lungs.

I turned, flailing my arms out to ward off whatever was attacking me. But how can you ward off air? The sucking persisted, panic and fear taking hold of me more thoroughly than the cold that had bit its way into my bones. Had it not been so dark out already, I’m sure I would’ve already seen the forest go black.

Falling to my knees, I reached out for the only element of which I had a strong grasp; water.  Particles were drawn from the clouds, the soil, and the trees. They rushed to meet me, then wavered in front of my face, hesitating. I wasn’t sure what to do with them. But there was more than just me at stake. In a desperate, final act, I sent them down my throat, into my lungs and into the very thing that sucked the life out of me. I flooded it with far more water, volume-wise, than the amount of air it took. Shortly, it proved to be too much, and the mysterious void of nothingness expelled everything. Water and air both flooded my system. I sputtered, choking up the water I had so desperately called to my aid.

As soon as I lifted myself from the ground, thoroughly soaked, I thought of Micah. Whatever, or whoever it was might be going after him too. The trail leading up to the cliff was steep and full of loose rock, causing me to slide most of the way down. Once my feet hit solid earth, I took off running. The forest was dense, but I avoided the protruding roots and clawing branches easily enough. There was only one thing on my mind. Without thinking, I opened up the telepathic connection and screamed his name, Micah!

There was no answer. I ran faster. The forest opened up into a small, circular clearing. As I entered it, I spotted Micah clearing the trees on the opposite side in a dead run toward me. We met in the middle, coming to a stop a few feet apart, both hunched over with our hands on our knees. A cursory scan of each other while still gasping for air was enough until words came to us. He was out of breath, but he was unscathed and handsome and dry – and I hated him for it.

Before he could say anything, I went first, in between breaths, “Well – was there anything in the cabin?” I didn’t bother keeping the bite out of my voice.

He held up a piece of paper in his hand, at least having the mind to look sheepish. “I found a letter.” He folded it up and put it in his pocket. “What happened to you?”

I fixed him with a stare as cold as the wind, “I found trouble.” Then, because I couldn’t help it, I shivered.

He sighed, taking off his jacket and wrapped it around me, “I guess I shouldn’t expect anything less from you, Kaitlyn.”

___________

Hope you liked it!  Don’t forget to get ‘Water, Book One’ now free pretty much everywhere as an ebook.  ‘Air, Book Two‘ is at a special price of $2.99.  Stayed tuned for the first chapter of ‘Fire, Book Three‘!

In Three Days…

In three days, ‘Fire, Book Three of the Akasha Series’ will be available for purchase on Amazon and B&N.  Shortly after that it will be available for iBooks.  Of the few books I’ve published so far, ‘Fire’ – by far – is the most exciting for me!  Let me tell you – it starts out with a bang. If you are squeamish, the first chapter probably won’t suit you. Whatever the case, make sure to put ‘Fire’ on your Goodreads TBR list now.

Each day until its release, I will post the first chapter of each of the books in the Akasha Series.  You know – in case you haven’t read them yet! Today’s first chapter is the opening to the entire series. Don’t forget ‘Water’ is now free on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and iBooks!

 

‘Water, Book One of the Akasha Series’, Chapter One:

There is nothing like an avalanche to put your life into perspective.  I leaned forward and the board strapped to my boots responded.  Slicing through the fresh powder, I made a sharp curve to the right.  A quick glance uphill showed the wave of snow was five times my height, and about to catch up to me.

The avalanche roared like an angry dragon, breath stinking of the earth churned up in its path.  The entire right side of the unmarked back country trail was a thick wall of trees, impossible to break through.  I pulled my toes up, arching back to the left side of the trail.  But I wasn’t going to make it.  Ice pelted me on the back of my neck, sending chills down my spine.  I pointed my snowboard straight downhill and put all my weight on my forward leg, hoping to outrun the beast.

I willed my board to go faster than I ever dared before.  The avalanche was faster.  It opened its mouth wide, closing in on me from both sides and overhead.  Gray blacked out the blue sky above and the trees to the side of me.  The mountain slope cracked and slithered forward, like a monster’s forked tongue.  As the force of nature dropped over me, I closed my eyes and threw my arms around my head.  My screams were swallowed by the creature.

Completely engulfed, I moved with the avalanche.  The whole of the trail had transformed into its body; an agitated, unstoppable river of churning snow and debris.  The world became darker and darker, the snow heavier and heavier.  Flashes of light were few and far between.

When I gasped for air I was sometimes rewarded with a clear breath but more often than not I sucked in a mouthful of snow.  Hacking to rid my throat of the slush, I came to the awful realization that I was drowning on dry land.

My hands, flailing for something solid to hang onto, finally caught hold of a tree.  Small as it was, it held fast against the merciless rush of snow.  I fought against nature, literally holding on for my life.  I wrapped myself around the trunk as two large branches just above me ripped away and disappeared in the churning white waves, along with my screams.  I squeezed so tight the rough bark scratched my cheek.  I inhaled the heavy scent of pine, as though the smell alone would keep me tethered to the tree.  I willed the roots to be strong.

They were, but I was not.  My grip started to loosen as my tired muscles and numb fingers were unable to hold on any longer.  I lost the stable trunk and returned to the tumble of snow.

I came to a halt just like the rest of the debris that used to be the Canadian mountainside.  A small air pocket had formed, allowing me to spit out the coppery taste of blood.  Suffocation couldn’t be too far off, encased as I was in an immobile block of ice.  Feeble attempts at movement proved useless.  Silence settled in on me as I heard the last of the snow come to a halt above me.  I tolerated its crushing weight because I had no choice.

As the numbness slowly receded, pain returned to one hand.  I wiggled my fingers.  They were free, possibly above the surface.  I grimaced.  Great – at least the wolves would find me.  Closed casket for me.

 

Hope you enjoyed it! Don’t forget to get ‘Water’ free, now on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and iBooks!

Being Mrs. Dracula

Winner, winner, chicken dinner! I recently submitted a short story to one of my Goodreads groups, Gotta Have Paranormal Romance with a Kick. The requirements were to write a short story about what it would be like to be Mrs. Dracula. No word count minimums/maximums. So I sat down, hammered something out, and won! Squee!  I got a $25 gift card to AllRomanceBooks.com, plus an e-copy of Being Mrs. Dracula by Faith Marlow.

Of course, my version of being Mrs. Dracula includes Wiccans, environmental issues, and an unexpected twist at the end. Interested? Read below and let me know what you think!

True Patriot

“Mrs. Hun, your rebuttal, if you please.”

Melinda nodded at the moderator, and turned to face the cameras. Lights bore down on her, and she hoped her makeup held up to the heat. A bead of sweat rolled down the back of her neck. She ignored it, trying to focus instead on the audience behind the media.

“Although my opponent’s environmental goal is admirable; it simply isn’t enough. As Ohio’s newest senator, and duly elected representative, I intend to support the push for nuclear energy.” Melinda waited for the uproar to die down. Her announcement wasn’t unexpected; in fact, anticipation of the announcement is what led to such a large turnout. She leaned closer into the microphone, speaking above the crowd, “Nuclear energy waste is miniscule to what we produce now. A coke can’s worth per person’s lifetime compared to 68 tons solid waste and 77 tons carbon dioxide.”

There were shouts from the audience, both for and against.

She continued, “A nuclear plant takes up less than a square mile to produce the same amount of energy a wind farm on 200 square miles produces.”

From behind the cameras, someone yelled about weapons of mass destruction. Melinda did something her campaign manager strictly prohibited. She responded to the criticism, “Nuclear war is an exaggerated fear, fed to you by Hollywood and the media.”

She looked over at her opponent, candidate Daniel Kelley, and swallowed hard. A small, knowing smile crept up on one side of his face.

As the debate ended with a clear winner, the two candidates shook hands in front of the camera. He leaned into her, “Good luck with the rest of your campaign, Mrs. Hun.”

She nodded, “And to you, Mr. Kelley.”

He glanced over at the empty seat in the front row, “I look forward to meeting your husband.”

Melinda looked down. Her husband had yet to appear at a public event by her side. “Mr. Hun is busy with work.”

Daniel narrowed his eyes, “Well, I hope he is around to at least take care of your injuries.”

Melinda gasped, touching her eye. The tips of her fingers came away tinged with beige cover-up. Her makeup was running. She immediately adjusted her hair over her neck, hoping no one had spotted the bruising there.

Daniel smiled, leaning in further, “Makeup, hair, and high turtlenecks can only cover so much.” He bent the rest of the way, kissing her on the cheek, then straightened and winked at her. Daniel Kelley disappeared into the maelstrom of media, prompting a new frenzy of flashing lights.

Melinda closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. The campaign, relatively free of mud-slinging so far, was about to get ugly.

* * *

Melinda entered campaign headquarters with her manager and several aides, “How is my California colleague’s campaign going?”

The youngest aide, a recent college grad, answered, “He leads the polls.”

“And Louisiana?” she asked.

“The same,” the manager said. “Barring any unfortunate disclosures regarding religious affiliations, your fellow wiccans will be sitting at the capitol next year.”

Melinda nodded. Discussions on how to effectively change America’s environmental policies began within her small coven ten years ago. With a lot of hard work, and equal amounts of luck, they managed to ensconce a handful of loyal wiccans within the US political system. This was just the beginning. Between the congressional race and well-paid lobbyists, they were going to slowly oust the large corporation stronghold within US politics, and guide the country to vote on policies that were environmentally responsible. America would no longer be run by the highest bidder.

“Melinda,” her campaign manager stopped her with a hand on her arm. “Are you going to be okay?”

She furrowed her eyebrows at him.

“Your husband returns tonight?” He pressed. “This is a situation your opponent would love to exploit. We can’t afford that kind of press. We are behind enough in the polls as it is.”

Melinda fidgeted with the hem of her shirt, uncomfortable with this kind of attention. “What my husband and I do behind closed doors is no affair of yours.”

“Of course – yet it will soon become the affair of the entire nation, if you’re not careful.”

She cleared her throat, and met his eyes, “I will be in my private suite the remainder of the evening. Text if you need anything; otherwise I’ll see you before 9 for our flight tomorrow morning.”

He sighed, looking at her with sad eyes. The matter was not closed; next time he would approach it with more care.

* * *

Melinda took the elevator below ground to her private suite. There weren’t many buildings in Columbus that went this far underground, especially so close to the river. Melinda wasn’t keen on spending so much of their campaign money on a lease, but Mr. Hun was insistent. She crossed their spacious living room, removing her jacket and high heels along the way. She looked at her watch, he would be waking soon.

At the floor to ceiling bookshelf, Melinda pulled on the copy of Bram Stroker’s ‘Dracula’. One click, and a panel opened inward. Melinda squeezed through the small opening. Inside was a large pentagram. Lit candles placed at intervals around the circular room provided the only light. Several men and women in robes waited on their knees, obediently keeping their heads down.

Melinda cleared her throat. One rose, walked over to her, and handed her an iced cocktail. She sniffed it, raising her eyebrows at him.

“It is the usual infused herbs, mixed during an incantation, Melinda.”

“And the blood?” She asked, peering through the clear glass.

“One drop.”

She nodded, throwing her head back and finishing the cocktail in one swallow. She handed the empty glass to the robed man, along with her cell phone and campaign badges, “I am ready.”

He set her belongings down on a small table and pulled a lever just above it. The center of the pentagram opened, and a large bed rose into the room, gears underneath squeaking with the strain. Melinda held her breath, heart stopping for a moment as it always did upon his awakening.

The form on the bed stirred, pulling the chains that bound him tight. A slow smile crept onto Melinda’s face, “Settle down husband, you will fly tonight.”

He turned, gray eyes boring into her, “You have another name for me, witch?”

“Daniel Kelley.”

The vampire sat up in the bed, his bare chest heaving in anger, “One of these nights, I will break your curse. I’m too old; lived far too long to bend to the will of a human.”

Melinda stepped forward, removing her turtleneck and revealing her bruised throat. A small price to pay. The vampire did need to feed after all, “The day may come,” she said. “But it will require something strong enough to break the bond of marriage.” She wrapped her hand around one of the chains, pulling it tight. The vampire was yanked down again, flat on his back. “And something stronger still to break these bonds. Not to mention the curse.”

Melinda crawled onto the bed, straddling the vampire. She felt his whole body go tense. “We’ll be performing the Great Rite before I release you,” she nodded to the robed man and he took his place back in the circle. “We’ll need to make sure the curse holds while you fly free. I want my little bat to return home by dawn.”

She stroked the side of his face. He bared his fangs, but couldn’t bite into the healthy, throbbing pulse at her wrist. Not without her permission; one of many stipulations enforced through the curse.

Dracula closed his eyes, frowning. “I suppose this must be my penance.”

“Penance?” Melinda scooted down on the bed, making herself comfortable in between his legs. “It’s for the good of the country.” Her smile was all too malicious, “I’ll make a true patriot out of you yet.”

Be My First Chapter Beta Reader

avalanche-11x200

I am currently undertaking the daunting task of reading my entire novel out loud to myself.  As I’ve discovered with my vampire short story series, and even the second book to the Akasha Series, ‘Air’, this method works wonders for catching hard to spot grammar/spelling mistakes and awkward sentences.  Although ‘Water’ has been on the market since September 2011, I haven’t yet put it through this process.  I have vowed to have this done by the time we go to Canada for our kid’s spring break trip (better get a move on because that is next week). Anyway, by the time I finished reading the first chapter out loud, I decided it needed a complete rework.

Whether you have read ‘Water’ yet or not, I would very much appreciate your input on the short 637 word excerpt below.  Does it grab your attention? Do you want to find out more? Does the dragon analogy work? If you have read ‘Water’, should I just stick with what is already there? Please leave your comments and thank you!!!

Chapter 1: Avalanche 

I leaned forward.  The board strapped to my boots responded.  Slicing through the fresh powder, I made a sharp curve to the right.  A quick glance uphill showed the wave of snow had almost tripled in size, and it was about to catch up to me.

More than anything else, it was the noise that pumped me full of adrenaline.  Like the roar of an angry, unrelenting dragon; breath stinking of the earth churned up in its path.  The entire right side of the unmarked backcountry trail was a wall of thick trees, impossible to break through.  I pulled my toes up, arching back to the left side of the trail.  But I wasn’t going to make it.  The dragon’s spittle pelted me on the back of my neck, sending chills down my spine.  Instead, I pointed my snowboard straight downhill and put all my weight on my forward leg, hoping to outrun the beast.

I willed my board to go faster than I ever dared before.  The avalanche was faster.  The dragon opened its mouth wide, closing in on me from both sides and overhead, blocking out the bright blue sky and the trees to the side of me with its gray jaws.  The slope beneath me cracked and slithered forward, like the monster’s forked tongue.  As the force of nature dropped over me, I closed my eyes and threw my arms around my head.  My screams were lost deep inside the creature.

Completely engulfed, I moved with the dragon.  The whole of the trail had transformed into its body; an agitated, unstoppable river of churning snow and debris.  The world became darker and darker, the snow heavier and heavier.  Flashes of light were few and far between.

When I gasped for air, I was sometimes rewarded with a clear breath but more often than not I sucked in a mouthful of snow.  Hacking to rid my throat of the slush, I came to the awful realization that I was drowning on dry land.

My hands, flailing for something solid to hang onto, finally caught hold of a tree.  Small as it was, it held fast against the merciless rush of snow.  I fought against nature, literally holding on for my life.  I wrapped myself around the trunk as two large branches just above me ripped away and disappeared in the churning white waves, along with my screams.  I squeezed so tight the rough bark scratched at my arms and cheek.  The scent of pine was strong, and I inhaled deeply as though the scent alone would keep me tethered to the tree.  I willed the roots to be strong.

They were, but I was not.  My grip started to loosen as my tired muscles and numb fingers were unable to hold on against the rushing snow.  I lost the stable trunk and returned to the tumble of snow.

I came to a halt just like the rest of the debris of the Canadian mountainside.  A small air pocket had formed, allowing me to spit out the coppery taste of blood.  Suffocation couldn’t be too far off, encased in an immobile block of ice as I was.  Feeble attempts at movement proved useless.  Silence settled in on me as I heard the last of the snow come to a halt above me.  Tolerating its crushing weight because I had no choice, I was left as I always was – alone.  Most of the time I preferred it that way; people were nothing but annoying.  But annoying or not, having someone who at least knew of my vacation plans would have been welcome.

As the numbness slowly receded, pain returned to one hand.  I wiggled my fingers.  They were free, possibly above the surface.  I grimaced.  Great – at least the wolves would find me.  Closed casket for me.

Flash Fiction and Giveaway

Hi there everyone!  If you haven’t yet, hop on over to Can’t Put it Down Reviews where I am giving away six sets of the first two books, ‘Water’ and ‘Air’ in the Akasha Series, plus one grand prize winner gets to pick a t-shirt from my store.

I am also giving away the complete set of the Kindred Curse Anthology, not yet released anywhere, in the Follower Love Giveaway Hop. Oh – and did I forget to mention the $25 Amazon Gift Card?

Now on to my newest flash fiction.  This was recently featured on Can’t Put it Down Reviews.  It is some of the  back story on Kaitlyn’s (main character in the Akasha Series) parents.  Enjoy!

Good Luck Charm

Mary leaned forward, looking through the windshield of their small, blue Honda and up into the sky. “Do they know we’re coming?”

The sky was growing darker by the minute, and the wind was picking up.

Cato answered from the back seat, “No one knows.  Well, except Shawn. Boy probably doesn’t even remember, as involved in video games as he was.” Cato stared at the scenery rushing past. Corn fields. Acre after acre of the tall stalks; all leaning to the left with the growing wind.

“Oh, please.  Your son is gifted and you know it.  I’ve seen the spark on more than one occasion.” John smiled at Cato through the rearview mirror. He put his hand over Mary’s, attempting to calm her fears.

She smiled, but her eyes still wrinkled with worry. It began to hail. Small chunks of ice pelted the windshield and road ahead. Mary began rubbing at the charm around her neck.

It was a necklace given to her by their only child. John thought of their daughter Kaitlyn, at home probably working on college applications. She was all they really had, and he would give anything to make it a better world for her.  Which is why they were all here.  With far more confidence than either of his two passengers, he resolutely nodded his head. “Yes.  Everything is going to be –“

“John! Stop!” Mary cut him off with her screams. He slammed on the brakes. About a mile ahead of them, a funnel shot down from the cloud cover. It was already bending the sturdy highway signs with its force. John put the Honda into reverse.

“Don’t want to do that either, John.” Cato pointed out the back window. A thick formation of clouds were already spinning in preparation for another tornado vortex to emerge.

John and Mary locked eyes.  Their communication was almost telepathic.  This was not natural weather.

The corn stalks no longer leaned in one direction. They waved wildly, as if flagging away the trio. But it was too late; they were trapped with twisters blocking each direction of road.

“So now we know – there has to be a traitor with The Seven.” John and Mary each turned to look at Cato.

“Let’s just get through this. Then we can turn to who is responsible. If I don’t make it…” Cato trailed off.

“We’re all going to make it.” John didn’t give Cato a chance to finish. “And we will all go home to our children.”

Cato nodded at his lifelong friend, thankful he was here to help face their enemy. The three exited the car.

Mary’s long, red skirt whipped around her legs. The red was a stark contrast to the dark grey skies. She faced the first of the tornados, opening herself up to the warm, moist air being drawn in from the south.  She used her powers as a water elemental to diffuse the air of moisture. John stood by her side, commanding the cool, dry winds blowing in from Canada. Together they worked, forcing away the conflicting weather and trying to stabilize the atmosphere.

Though Cato could manipulate all of the elements, he concentrated on the wind speed.  He worked to slow it down, preventing any more updrafts. He was significantly stronger than the pair that worked behind him, but he was hindered, having to deal with chunks of road and now farm equipment being tossed at them by the tornado. He moved forward, certain he was the target of the attack. The least he could do was decrease the risk to his friends by angling away, further down the road.

Mary looked back to see their small car in a slow spin, gradually being lifted up. It was as unpredictable as the winds.  “We need to move!”

Without hesitation, she turned to the fields. The sharp, unharvested corn cut that might offer some protection from the wind, bit into her bare legs as she ran. John stayed close on her heels. “Where is Cato!” He called to her. But there was no time to answer.  He lunged forward, tackling Mary to the ground as the roof of a barn whipped by overhead.

Cato remained  on the highway, struggling with the wind patterns.  They were unpredictable.  He detected several threads of power being woven into the storm from two different directions.  There would be more than four elementals attacking – and no time to target them.  Cato had to settle for playing defense. He looked behind me, startled to find John, Mary and the car gone.

He ran back to where he had left them.  Dumbfounded, he looked to the right, at the slightly wavering speed limit sign, still planted in the ground. He peered closer into the fields, thinking he saw a flash of Mary’s skirt.  He took a step towards it, when a spinning, blue mass shot by, missing Cato by mere feet.  He could barely track it with his eyes.  It was their car, now bouncing end over end down the highway, taking the speed limit sign with it. Cato blinked, then turned back to the wind patterns in the sky and could only hope the same fate had not befallen his friends.

Gradually, his energy waned, and he was left only able to maintain a protective circle around himself.  The weather had grown too strong; almost like more elementals had joined in. The corn fields and his friends were on their own. Cato’s whole body shook with exertion until he dropped to his knees. His sphere was allowing the strong gusts to pass through, but it would hold against the more solid objects thrown at him by the storm, and it would keep him firmly planted on the ground.

The two funnels moved closer, then angled in – towards the path his friends took.  Shards of debris littered the air like feathers in a pillow fight.  Cato was still able to discern the funnels, large as they were, merging together. As they did, lightening lit the sky and thunder cracked in the air, barely heard over the freight train noise of the super twister.  It was a triumphant announcement; both sides knew who had won this battle.

Wind gusts did not let up. They grew stronger and stronger, pulling even more debris into the air, until Cato could not see past his protective circle at all. He was sure the large mass was coming for him next.

With a final burst of energy, Cato pushed himself to his feet. He wasn’t going to face death curled up like a coward. It would be full on, shoulders squared and eyes opened. And without his shield.

When the noise was unbearable – and Cato was sure the climax had arrived, he lifted his hands to dissipate his shield. Before he could, the world went silent. Stalks, corn, dirt, and fractured wood from nearby structures all fell to the ground at once. There was no wind. What cornstalks were left in the ground were still. In the skies, clouds moved away revealing a disturbingly peaceful blue sky in their wake.

The last of Cato’s energy fizzled out, and his protective circle vanished. Two loud, sickening thumps came from behind him. Cato swallowed the rising lump in his throat, then turned. Mary and John lay dead on the highway. All of their limbs twisted in unnatural, odd angles, except for one. Mary’s hand still clutched the charm at her neck.

Let me know what you think!  Comments always welcome.

Flash Fiction – One Less

This week’s flash fiction is a snippet from ‘Air, Book Two of the Akasha Series’ to be released next month.  Kaitlyn, the main character, and Vayu, a wind elemental I introduce at the beginning of the book, are sent to battle a manmade fire:

 

A thick wall of flame came into view. Vayu stopped. “Here. This is the front of the fire.”

He turned to me and I realized how wildly unprepared I actually was. Wind was the most unpredictable of elements, the most difficult to control. I hadn’t had much practice with it.

Vayu was able to read my face. “I don’t have time to teach you, but we can do this one of two ways. You can either feed me energy or you can try to copy what I do as best as you can.”

It didn’t take me long to choose, remembering what happened to Micah last time he willingly gave me his energy. “I’ll try it on my own.”

Vayu scrutinized me for a moment, trying to judge my abilities as if he could by just looking at my face.

I frowned. He hadn’t seen any of what I could do. “Vayu – Micah wouldn’t have left me if he didn’t think I could handle it.”

Vayu accepted my reasoning. In a weird sort of circle pattern, that in turn gave me more confidence. Amazing how Micah could change things without even being there. Vayu took a deep breath in, and flows of energy left his body as he exhaled. It was an all-encompassing net that went out from his body. The net expanded, retracted, and grew thicker or thinner at Vayu’s will. I felt it letting air through in some places and blocking it in others. The net quickly grew to the left and right of us, expanding beyond my sight. Somehow Vayu knew what to do in the places he couldn’t see.

Following his lead, I took a deep breath in and immediately sputtered on the smoke. Vayu spared a sideways glance at me but kept most of his focus on the job at hand.

I thought back to all the other times I had used my powers. I had either drawn energy from within myself, drawn energy from another element, or used raw emotion to conjure weather. I decided I couldn’t draw energy from within and risk my baby; it was the least I could do as a mother. I also lacked any significant emotion, barring the fear building up in the pit of my stomach. I had never really operated on fear before. It was anyone’s guess how the elements would react.

I closed my eyes and concentrated on the elements around me. Water was obviously in short supply, the air was tainted and I didn’t want to interfere with Vayu’s element. That left fire and earth. Could I possibly draw energy from the very element I was trying to defeat? I shrugged my shoulders.

“Why the hell not?” The fire was far too loud for Vayu to hear me. Good – the less crazy he thought I was the better.

I began, this time without taking a deep breath, and started to draw energy from the fire. I worked gingerly through Vayu’s net. Before the energy returned through the net to me, I shifted its direction and in the process it simply converted itself to wind. Perhaps it was following my will or even Vayu’s example. I directed the wind more over the fire than around it, quelling what flame I could and cooling the entire area.

“Good,” Vayu called over the noise. “That is helping – very good.”

He looked surprised, and I smiled. I liked surprising people, as long as it was with my skill and not the lack thereof. I continued to concentrate on my wind, cooling down the fire and occasionally letting a gust blow over the top of Vayu’s net to cool us down.

We were making progress. The evidence was in the blackened landscape left behind as the fire was pushed back. We moved constantly, to the sides, and forward, following the fire. Suddenly, several loud bursts to our left shocked us from our concentration. A small grove of trees had succumbed to the fire and were literally exploding into flames, one right after another.

“Move your wind to only that area,” Vayu yelled.

I refocused my efforts as Vayu’s net grew more intense. I worked for what seemed like hours, no longer sparing wind to cool us down. I was drained. Hopefully the fire was experiencing the same effect.

A strong wind on our right caught me off guard and nearly blew me over with such a force that it could only be described as malicious.

“What are you doing?” I yelled at Vayu.

“Not me – when a fire gets too hot it creates weather of its own.”

Despite the heat, chills crawled up my back. We were no longer fighting just a fire; it was a living, breathing monster. A crafty one, at that. The fire’s weather pushed quickly through Vayu’s net on our right and we angled our bodies to combat it. We had to move backwards to avoid being singed ourselves. Now we were on the losing side of the battle.

We were pushed backwards into burnt terrain.

Something caught us from behind and we both ended up on the ground.

Vayu recovered faster. “Damn log.” He got up quickly and rebuilt his net.

“Vayu.” I swallowed hard, not moving. “It’s not a log.”

“What?” He shouted down at me without looking.

“It’s a person.” I sat, frozen for a moment, then finally shuffled around the charred body and looked for signs of life. The hair was mostly burned off leaving only sporadic patches of fuzz, but judging by the size of the body and width of the shoulders, it was a man. He was lying on his stomach, his head turned toward me. Finally his back rose slightly, a shallow, somewhat regular breathing pattern.

“Is it Shawn?” Vayu asked, not able to spare a glance down at the body.

I looked at his face, and shook my head. “No.”

The man’s eyes, probably the only unscathed part of his body, were a light brown, not Shawn’s icy blue stare. Strange as the stare was. There was too much white. His eyelids were almost completely burned off. Bile rose in my throat.

He began to gurgle in an effort to say something.

I whispered back though he probably couldn’t hear me, “Shhh…..don’t say anything. I’ll get you help.” I touched his shoulder gently and bits of something flaked off. I couldn’t tell if it was skin or clothing. The entire body was either black or red; he wasn’t going to make it no matter what I did. I felt physically ill. I looked at him again and mouthed the words ‘I’m sorry’.

Recognition flashed in his eyes. I believe I had just been so kind as to help him realize his own death was close at hand. I lay down next to him, oblivious of the fire around us. The least I could do was stay with him until the end. Vayu was yelling something, but my priorities were clear. I wasn’t a Gaia right then, nor was I Kaitlyn. I was simply the last connection this man would have in his life, or this life, anyway.

Vayu, still yelling, rustled around in the pack on my back for something. My body jerked as his search became more frantic.

The man resumed his attempts to speak, despite my insistence he lay still. I leaned in closer, trying to interpret a phrase he said over and over. Only two words in the garbling were comprehensible, and they were enough to freeze me in place. “One less, one less.”

He began shifting his body and grunting; I couldn’t subdue him with my hands for fear of causing more damage. Finally he leaned away from me, pulling out a bag from underneath the blanket. It was shiny; possibly fireproof. Inside the bag was a thick, neatly bound document. He must have been protecting the document while sacrificing his own body. The white pages were a stark contrast to the blackened earth below and his charred hand. He pushed the document feebly toward me. He left streaks of ash behind on the pristine paper as he pulled his hand away. On the cover was one simple symbol, the same symbol worn on my shoulder as a permanent scar of Shawn’s doing.Suspicions confirmed, my body went numb. The charred man smiled. “I was chosen to be one less.” Triumph and self-importance emanated from him. His smile, no matter how much it anguished him to do so, was the last thing I saw.

 

So there you have it. Now is your chance to let me know what you think; before I release ‘Air’! Please leave a comment!

Flash Fiction – Out of Their Element

I’m taking a break this week from the Akasha Series characters, and delving into something that has been in my head for a while.  I have to get it out for sanity’s sake.  This is a possible first chapter for a new series I will undertake after completing the Akasha Series.  Let me know what you think!

 

Serena turned the corner of the thin, rocky path.  Her shoes slid along the pebbles almost sending her head first into the trees.  “Damn things!  Why would humans wear these?”

She looked behind her.  There was time, the beast wasn’t yet in her sight.  She quickly slipped the shoes off, and began running again.  The beast took the corner too fast as well.  As soon as she heard skidding, she turned and threw one of her shoes.  Miss.  The beast scrambled to get his legs under him and lunged for her.  She threw the other shoe.  Nailed him in the nose.  Serena laughed out loud, and resumed her steady running pace.  “I thought werewolves were faster than this!”

She had no idea if he could understand speech in his animal form, but he was no doubt enraged.  His growls told her so.  The noise scared off any other animals close by, plunging the forest into silence.  Besides the beast, the repetitive waves in the distant ocean was the only other sound.

Her legs brushed past the sharp, thick shrubbery outlining the path.  Shallow cuts crisscrossed over her otherwise smooth, white skin.  She looked down at the trickles of blood.  Good, she thought, at least I’ll get a few battle scars out of it.

Next to come off was her shirt.  She threw it behind her, only stopping to watch the beast tear madly at his own face, where the shirt landed.  She quickly stepped out of her jeans, but had to throw them backwards over her head as she ran.  The beast was on the move again.  He dodged the pair of pants, finally learning what to expect.  Stupid mutt.

She breathed in deeply, putting her lungs to work, and smiled.  Never had she felt so free, so reckless as tonight.  Pursued by werewolf in unknown territory in nothing but her own skin.  How was she going to top this adventure?

No matter.  She would find a way.  Serena always did.  She broke the tree line at her fastest pace yet, soft sand greeting her feet and slowing her down.  The wolf was close, she could smell his foul breath.  The thing snapped at her, almost reaching the tresses of her long, curly, brown and gold hair.  Some of the werewolves’ spit flung forward onto her shoulder.  “Ew!”

The beast was faster on the sand.  Serena did not expect that.  The greedy thing didn’t even wait until he had a sure kill.  He swiped at her as soon as the long reach of his paw was close enough.  The gash caused Serena to falter, and she stumbled in the sand.  Taking care to avoid the yellow razor-like gnashing teeth, Serena rolled.  The beast rolled with her, unwilling to let go of his prey.  In the split second he was on top, Serena pushed up and out with her powerful legs.  The werewolf yelped as he spun, head over tail, into the waves.

Rough waves toppled over the beast as he struggled to get on his feet.  The water pushed and pulled, becoming stronger and stronger, as if it were working against the werewolf.  Sabrina laughed again, delighted to see the mighty creature out of his element.  He dragged himself out of the water, weighed down by his thick, matted fur and gasping for breath.  Sabrina walked by, keeping a wary eye on him.  Welcoming waves reached out to her, drawing her into their frothy grip.

Having recovered, the werewolf shook his fur, ridding himself of the salty sea water.  He looked out into the ocean, and spotted his prey bobbing up and down with the waves, well beyond his reach.  He turned his head toward the moon and howled in mourning.

It was an ear-piercing noise.  Serena couldn’t understand why the lot of them hadn’t been put down centuries ago.  She flicked her freshly formed fins, spraying water onto the hound, effectively cutting off his pathetic cry.

She smiled, but was already longing for more adventure.  Serena said goodbye to the world and turned, flinging her body up then down again, diving into the cold, dark water.  Gills took over for her lungs as she dove deeper and deeper, returning to familiarity and routine, to her home…to her prison.

So there you have it – I am sane once again.  Comments always welcome!