Alue, an Elf

The first book of my Unraveling the Veil trilogy is with beta readers. Woot woot. So, if all goes well, I’m on target for… um… August?  Gulp. That date makes my stomach hurt.

I introduced Naj’ar, my goblin, with a little snippet – Here.

Well, here’s a little peek at Alue, my elf.

***

The Devil’s Owl occupied a basement in the Ten’s Thrift District known for its tanneries and crude smelting operations, poisonous reek and lung-killing smoke. She paused in the gloom at the top of the littered stairs leading down below the street. The night had cooled. Stars pricked holes in the obsidian sky, and crickets chirped in a forsaken lot of tumbled walls.

The canteen’s whispered reputation suggested it was a place frequented by goblin smugglers, collared changelings, and elves with nothing to lose. It was a place to purchase stolen crystals.

She chewed on a lip and weighed the risks of entering. Even more so, her chances of getting out. She’d dressed in dark gray dahn, a long black shirt, and open vest, her hair tightly braided and tucked into a scarf. A light smudge of kohl hollowed her cheeks, lending her the starved appearance of an addict, and she’d drawn dull bruises around her eyes.

Teeth gritted, she adjusted the knife at her hip and descended the steps. A rap on the weathered door cracked it open, and a goblin’s charcoal face filled the slit. A lemon-yellow eye appraised her.

“I need to make a purchase,” she said.

“What of?”

“None of your business.”

“We haven’t seen you here before.”

“Because I’ve never been here. I usually don’t patronize dumps.” The goblin reached through the gap. She jerked back, and his sharp claws missed her scarf. “And if you touch me, I’ll cut off your fingers.”

The goblin bared a row of serrated teeth, returning the threat.

“Let her in, Tak,” someone said from the murky cave within. Tak stepped aside, and the dim room beckoned. The dank and ripe stink of unwashed bodies and spilled keva wrinkled her nose, and she sucked in a breath through her mouth.

“You coming in?” The goblin grabbed her arm and yanked her inside, closing the door behind her. She twisted out of his grip with an agility that caught him off guard, her knife tip pointed up under his scarred chin. He loomed over her, one long ear swept back and twitching, the other missing. Muscles bunched in his shoulders.

She growled into his surprised face, “I wasn’t kidding about the fingers.”

“Fast for an addict.”

“Who said I was an addict?” She lowered her knife and her voice. “I’m looking for crystals.”

The goblin’s nocturnal eyes reflected the muted light. He pointed with his chin to a corner. “Over there.” He bent down, his long nose almost pressed to her ear. “You’re not fooling anyone, elf. Get what you need and get out.”

Alue stepped back, nodded, and headed for the threesome. A bearded changeling with a collar delivered mugs of keva to his companions—a pale goblin and dark-haired elf. They leaned over their table while a glowing sphere twirled on the elf’s fingertips. He was photokinetic, like her, but with a trickster’s talent, and handsome compared to the other lowlifes that drank and gambled in the canteen’s alcoves. He rolled the sphere over the back of his hand, into his palm, back up to his fingertips, never losing contact. The movement seemed effortless, without thought, his attention focused on his companions and their conversation. She strolled up to the table and plucked the light from its perch. The orb remained bright in her palm.

The elf’s companions stiffened, but he cupped a hand and formed another sphere that popped to his fingertips. “Beware who you rob.”

Naj’ar, a Goblin.

I took a last-minute break to finish the 5th draft of my trilogy: Unraveling the Veil. Phew. Done. Now I can celebrate start my next draft. Yay! Ugh!

This project has been in the works for 2 years, and I plan to start publishing in May August if all goes well.

I thought I’d share a slightly-condensed intro to my WIP’s main characters, starting with Naj’ar, a goblin. I hope you enjoy the read.

 

Bats squeaked in the blackness, and an enduring cold leached from the walls. Neither troubled Naj’ar. His kind were accustomed to the leather-winged company, and his muscled frame, though half-elven, tolerated the chill almost as well as the purebloods. A shaggy fur draped his shoulders as he navigated the tunnelways beneath the mountain.

Ragged veins of quartz glimmered in the rock’s wet crevices, their latent power spiraling as if they’d captured wisps of cloud. Their faint glow cast angular shadows. Yet, the reflective surfaces of his eyes granted him the vision to lope through the crude passageways with sure feet.

The ground shook, and he paused, a hand reaching into the void for balance. Curved fingernails scraped a wall. Grains of igneous rock sifted from the ceiling. The tunnels to the peaks meandered in a labyrinth of forks, crumbling stairways, and long sloped passages, familiar to him though he’d never labored in the upper mines. His interest lay in the Veil and the hidden world that lay beyond.

Na’jar, a goblin

A pragmatic people, goblins rarely indulged in fantasy. But legends hinted of a hallowed land, the birthplace of the First where only the brave and just found welcome. Others speculated that behind the shimmering wall lay the answers to the secrets of eternity. Its allure tugged at his curiosity, a barbed thorn hooked in his mind, impossible to pry loose.

His feet slid, and his fingernails dug into the ice varnishing the slanted floor. Ice within the mountain? He frowned, gray skin prickling. The air froze on the walls in a glassy rime. The crust of frost thickened. Clouds formed with each breath, and for the first time, the frigid chill seeped into his bones. He sniffed the downy scents of snow and earth mingled with something new—the electric tang of power.

Bent in a crouch, he pressed forward. At the end of a winding incline, beyond the frame of winter’s brambles, a sinister light forced his yellow eyes to narrow. The snow-laced peaks sawed at the sky. And behind them, the Veil beckoned.

He toiled uphill. Bare feet crunched through frozen drifts. A white wind howled from the heights, and the curtain shimmered through gaps in the storm-bourn snow, a sheet of silver light, shuddering and bulging. Lightning crackled and ribboned through a lace of arteries and veins as if it were a monstrous creature hovering at the edge of the world.

Ears swept back, hands and feet numb, Naj bent against the blow. He trudged upward, determined to reach the ridge. Ice caked his face, sparkled on his lashes. The air hissed with electricity. The distinctive odor of ozone, both clean and burned, wrinkled his nose.

The Veil splintered. A blast of power flung him backward.

He tumbled down the steep slope, hurled into a black and white slide of rock and snow, past the tunnelway’s entrance. With a breathless gasp, he clambered to his feet and climbed for the mountain’s shelter. A second explosion slammed him to his back. Colossal shards of light shot outward, streaking through the storm. He covered his face with an arm. The snow and stone lost its grip on the mountainside, burying him alive. He clawed and kicked free of his icy tomb and scrambled over the sliding terrain.

Then the wind died. Snow and rock rumbled to stillness. The Veil began to weave itself together, threads swiftly stitching across the ether, reconnecting and patching the jagged wounds. The blizzard transformed into rain, slackened to a lazy drizzle, then evaporated before it mottled the ground. Sunshine lanced through gashes in a rapidly mutating sky. Snow vanished in a hot fog and then the fog too burned away.

The Veil thinned and solidified, releasing the energetic mass that had fortified it against the storm. Naj hastened for the tunnel entrance, his soles pained by the hot stones. Tufts of grass, moments before buried in ice, began to smolder. He dove into the warming passageway, rolled to his feet, and dashed into the blackness.

***

Thanks for reading!