Allies and Spies Released

Allies and Spies, Book 2 of the Unraveling the Veil Trilogy is now available on Kindle.

No major fanfare, no 30-day tour. Phew!

Oh, all right… a little celebration.

Some autumn dahlias…

Tasty cocktails…

And low-cal dessert!

(How I wish we could celebrate in person.)

If you missed Book 1, Liars and Thieves, it’s available here.

Allies and Spies

Trust is as thin as a blade’s edge. Secrets abound. And no one is who they seem. Kalann il Drakk, the First of Chaos, makes a bargain with his brethren, in which the future of civilization hangs in the balance.

Thrust together by a sacred oath, a halfbreed goblin, a misfit elf, and a changeling spy unite in an uneasy alliance. But their mission to learn the truth of the strange disappearances must wait—for they owe a blood debt to the changeling queen.

In the Raveen Mountains, the cornerstones of Naj’s life crumble. Goblins assemble a massive shipment of crystals for the Borderland—enough to power Ka Radiff for a decade or, with a single spark, blow it apart.

In the elfin Riverlands, Alue learns of the clandestine Coalition. Rumors whisper of a vast conspiracy. But that knowledge pales in comparison to a startling revelation that shatters the foundations of her life.

When a dead goblin turns up on the slopes beneath the Veil, Talin has no choice but to admit to changeling crimes. The tenuous alliance falters. Treachery runs deep and wide. And in the changelings’ jungle, the queen releases her venom. The ground fractures. And only the truth about il Drakk’s cruel designs has the power to spare their lives.

Thanks for stopping by.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Happy Reading!

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!

Escape – #Writephoto

Image copyright Sue Vincent

Alue nudged the prison door open.

Dawn’s light dappled Glenglisun’s slender towers. The jade patina of jungle growth, of humidity, of misty warmth, swathed the city as if it were fashioned of ancient bronze. Spindly minarets blended into the soaring canopy, and its flowering arches belied the peril within its walls.

Naj crept past her. The goblin moved in a crouch, long limbs corded with muscle, his double-bladed glaive clasped by its wooden shaft. Alue’s breath clogged in her chest. Someone had slipped them a key, left the weapon. Someone had freed them, and yet she cringed at the possibility of arrows tracking them from the rooftops.

At the building’s end, Naj ducked to his right and vanished. She darted after him, hooked the corner, and smashed into Danian. The changeling grabbed her arm, steadying her, and she stifled a curse.

“Quiet,” he whispered. “Follow me.”

“I’m not following you anywhere.” She wrenched her arm from his grip. “You’re a liar and a thief.”

Danian closed the gap, his breath in her face, irises black with fury. She mirrored his glare until he swung away. “Your choice,” he growled and set off for the city’s high wall.

Naj paused. His yellow eyes narrowed to slits, and he studied her as if she were a new specimen of plant life. “Do not die for your stubbornness,” he warned and loped after the changeling.

The patronizing arrogance bristled, but so did the truth. Alue’s last choices had cost her more than her freedom. She raked back her froth of red hair, swallowed her indignance, and dashed after them.

Danian avoided the stone streets, escaping instead over a weave of dirt pathways. He halted in the shadow of one of the grass and mud homes. The wall loomed ahead, draped in a camouflage of leafy creepers. Guards idled by the stone columns flanking a filigreed gate, inattentive, but holding spears no less deadly.

“This way.” He made a short retreat and veered toward a cluster of aerial roots that a large banyan had suspended over the wall. Strangler figs twisted around them. A natural ladder. “We go over,” he whispered and scrambled up. Alue climbed without effort, relying on her elven agility, hands and feet finding easy holds. She jumped to the other side and waited for the goblin. Naj landed with a grunt.

Beneath the canopy, time stalled, the day cast in perpetual dusk. Birds squawked and howler monkeys roared. Danian ran ahead. Alue leapt between giant teaks but struggled through the lattices of vines that snagged her body and tripped her feet. Hands bloodied by a fall, she tried to rip the barriers aside, tempted to scream with frustration. How long until the changelings hunted them?

Naj drew her back. His glaive swung like a scythe, slicing through the tangled underbrush. It swept over her head in a terrifying arc, and a green snake thudded to her feet, severed in two.

“Do not kill here!” Danian ordered. “This is changeling territory. If you make a mistake—”

The snarl of a big cat silenced him, the sound chilling to the bone. And close. Naj spun, his glaive raised. Alue froze, the animal behind her.

“Don’t harm it,” Danian’s hand edged up toward the goblin’s weapon. He met Alue’s gaze. “And don’t move.”

Alue fought the agonizing urge to run, fear trembling through her limbs. She couldn’t bear the predator’s presence at her back. Slowly, she disobeyed, rotating, peering into the jungle’s green depth. A massive panther, a slick blackness smooth as starlit water, crouched amidst the mottled undergrowth, baring deadly fangs. A guttural growl rumbled from its throat as its muscles bunched.

Danian breathed in her ear, “Trust me.”

**

I’m cheating and sharing a bit of my WIP (still a first draft but edited so that it makes sense). This is in response to Sue Vincent’s Thursday #Writephoto prompt. I couldn’t pass it up.