Friday, March 12, 2010

SNEAK PEEK: Queen of the Sylphs

Coming November 2010!

Blurb (from author's website):

Life in the Valley is mostly peaceful, and newcomer Gabralina is settling in happily with her Battle Sylph Wat. The only problem is, not everyone in the Valley is interested in letting things stay the way they are and the council that advises the Queen is being targeted.

Tensions mount when even the Battle Sylphs can’t find the culprit, and a creature no one was ever expecting starts to study the Gate from the other side.

Excerpt (Unedited):

Sixteen Battle Sylphs crouched on top of poles for the night lanterns, all of them perched like giant blue and gold birds.  Used to them, the people who lived in the Valley went on their way, only glancing up periodically at the outwardly human creatures.  They in turn were ignored by the Sylphs.  Newcomers, however, gaped in amazement. The Battlers didn’t appear to pay any attention to them either, though that wasn't true.  Outsiders were alien to a species that didn't like change.  To safeguard the hive, they hunched on their poles, looking around at the growing town and speaking to each other in silence while they watched and waited.  There wasn’t a single one of them who didn’t like the visibility being on the poles gave them, relying on their eyes to watch for danger as much as they did their empathy.

Seated on his heels with his hands resting lightly on his knees, Mace studied the street.  It was market day in the Valley and a large caravan had arrived with merchants from Eferem and Yed.  Thanks to them, there were several hundred new people in the town, all jostling their way through the market with its plethora of  merchant stalls and all shouting.  None of the Battlers were happy about it.  Given their own way, there would be no one new allowed into the Valley unless they cleared them first, but the town would never survive that.  Without trade, they wouldn’t grow, and if they didn’t grow, they wouldn’t be able to survive.  They needed to.  Theirs was a people against the rest of the world and they had no allies.  There were people who would trade with them, certainly,  but other kingdoms who agreed with their Queen’s philosophy?  So far, none of them even acknowledged her.  The merchants who came to this place weren’t the representatives of their Kings after all.  In the case of Eferem, Mace had no doubt that they were coming directly against their King's command.  The Valley was a good place to trade with though and the Queen made sure that everything was kept fair.  No one cheated anyone in the Valley, not with the Battlers watching.

Mace shifted on his pole, watching the crowd with more than his eyes.  To anyone who saw him like this, he was a tall, heavy boned man of indeterminate age, his balding hair short and his face not given to smiling.  He looked more strong than attractive, but there was a certain hard confidence to him that he knew appealed to women.  He could feel it, though he never took advantage.  Not anymore.  His loyalty lay with two women; the Queen, who commanded him before all, and the Widow Lily Blackwell, who owned both his body and his love.  All of the Battlers had their women and would take no others while they lived.  It was for them and for the hive itself that they guarded the Valley.

As the day wore on, he studied the people who made their way down the street and felt their emotions.  Amusement, contentment, impatience, worry.  A tapestry of a thousand different feelings washed through him and left him unmoved.  Empathy was something Battle Sylphs had in abundance.  Compassion they had not at all.

Mace searched for anger, for violence and hate.  A man about to cause harm would broadcast it, giving himself away to the Sylphs.  The Elemental Sylphs and Healers wouldn’t react to that, except to run, but the Battlers would attack.  If a man felt rage, they came.  If a woman felt fear, they came.  Even the Queen wouldn’t deny them that deep instinct.  Battlers protected the hive.  It had always been that way. 

Below him, a man in an ordinary travel tunic with a pack on his back passed by,  not noticing Mace on his silent perch.  The man felt... determined.  He was looking at the Elemental Sylphs who walked in the form of children with surprise and then contempt.  He saw the women who wore clothes like men and bartered or sold as equals with disgust. 

Mace leaned forwards, balanced unnaturally on his toes as he stared at the man who was heading through the market.  He looked over at the other Battlers and saw them watching the newcomer as well, their emotions interested.  Mace nodded at the closest; a blue-haired, nervous creature named Claw. 

We follow, he said silently into the other Battler’s mind and Claw nodded spastically.  He was a shivering, broken creature who’d been ruined by years of slavery.  Mace would never send him on a mission alone, but even if Lily hadn’t said to include him, he still had his uses and he was a Battle Sylph.  Nothing would change that. 

Mace jumped down, landing easily before a woman carrying a basket of potatoes.  She yelped and nearly dropped it, staring up at him in fright.  Mace nodded at her and set off, making his way through the crowds behind the man, people getting out of his way at the sight of the gold trimmed blue uniform he wore.  The Battlers all wore the same clothes, making it easy for the people who didn’t know what they were to identify them.  The Queen felt that was a kinder announcement than the aura of hatred they otherwise projected to anyone nearby.  That wasn’t needed, she felt;  not in a peaceful place like the Valley.  Mace wasn’t inclined to argue with her, even if arguing with a Queen or a master wasn’t incomprehensible to him.  People in the Valley knew what they were and if they didn’t, they learned quickly.

They stepped out of his way now, which was all that mattered.  The ones who knew him started to speak, perhaps to say hello, but stopped when they saw the look in his eyes and Claw following at his heel.  He felt whatever emotion they had turn to fear and kept going, following the man.  He was easy to catch up to, what with having to push his way through the crowds that parted for the Battlers, but they didn’t catch up all the way, instead just following.  One of the Queen’s rules was that they not attack on instinct.  They needed a reason; not much of one, but a reason nonetheless. 

The man reached the end of the wide road and headed into a square that was even more filled with stalls than the street he’d just left.  Everything from food to tools to jewellery was being sold, but Mace didn’t care.  Neither did the man, apparently.  Above, a Battle Sylph named Wat perched on the edge of a building, watching Mace and Claw. 

He feels like he’s looking for something, Claw sent to Mace. 

Yes.  The man did and it wasn’t anything the merchants were selling.  He looked at the faces of the women he passed instead and Mace could feel his annoyance and determination at not seeing what he wanted, along with a determination that led towards violence.  He felt like a predator and Mace let a low growl sound in his throat.

A little girl toddled out of the crowd and grabbed his leg, beaming up at him.  “Play with me!” she cried, her happiness a dizzy salve to him.  Mace scooped her up, tickling her under the chin, and passed her back to Claw. 

Take her to her mother, he ordered, seeing the woman not far away.  She was one of the original Community members, there since the Valley was settled, and her emotions were content, trusting the Battlers with her child.  Claw hurried over to her and Mace turned back to his target.

He was nowhere in sight, lost in the emotions of the excited, happy crowds that gathered around a street performer with a dozen juggling balls.  Mace snarled, looking around, reaching with his senses, and glared up at Wat on the rooftops.  Where? 

The Battler on the roof, dark-haired, slim, and gorgeous by any human standard, stared right back at him.  Huh?  

The big Battler snarled and shifted form, dropping the human shape he’d chosen years before and going to his original one.  Formed of dense black smoke laced heavily with lightning, his eyes were swirls of ball lightning, his teeth pure electricity.  Black, drifting wings spread out and he rose, lifting dozens of feet in moments.  People who saw him screamed in fright, even those who knew him.  Some of those ones screamed even louder. Battlers only took their own shape to travel or to attack, but Mace didn’t care.  He had no proof, but he knew exactly where the man was going.  Determined, violent, searching for a woman.  Not expecting to find her in the market but watching regardless, just in case.  Mace rose high and confirmed where he was going, just as he'd thought.  On the other side of this square was another road that led eventually to a stone building, the walls as thin and delicate as candy floss, the windows tall with coloured glass.  It rose high in the air, the stone a creamy white.  Wide stairs led to the great double doors, both open now as they always were open when the Queen held court.  A woman that Mace could easily see a determined, violent man looking for.

Mace spotted the man, already nearing the stairs, though the entire building was mostly built for show.  For all its beauty outside, its interior led only to a staircase into the underground complex where the Queen's throne room really lay.  Mace roared, his call a command to every Sylph, whether Battler or not. 


The Battlers answered the cry, all of them immediately in the air.  The other Sylphs shrieked, going to their own forms to escape, many of them dragging their human masters to safety with them.  People from the Valley saw them retreating, heard the Battlers roar, and fled themselves, all of them hurrying to stairwells at every corner of the square.  They led into the corridors underground, the hive that existed underneath the Valley.  Strangers to the Valley didn’t know to follow them, but Mace didn’t care about that, not nearly as much as he did the safety of the human Queen who was master to them all.

At the foot of the stairs, the assassin started, looking back up at Mace in fear.  At all of them, as the other Battlers rose behind Mace, creating a storm layers high.  Behind the man, the doors closed, sealing shut at the touch of an Earth Sylph.

Mace opened his jaws wide, hissing.  He couldn’t speak in this form to the man.  He could only project his voice to other Sylphs, or his master, or his Queen.  He projected it to her now. 

There is danger, my Queen.  A man has come to kill you.  We have him. 

Don’t kill him, she sent back immediately.  No one dies. 

Mace hated it, but as he dropped down to take the assassin, he obeyed.

~ o ~

Interview with L.J. McDonald 

LAST DAY for the contest. You may make your comments in this post or in any of the posts above. L.J. is also around to answer your questions, so ask away! More importantly, have fun!


L.J. McDonald said...

Please keep in mind that this is an extremely early look at this book and it hasn't gone through the mass editing process yet. Any errors or weirdnesses in it are purely my fault.

Erotic Horizon said...

Carol, you do want to kill me...

I know you do....

No more until I read the first book...

Evil woman..


Carole said...

E.H> LOL Okay, okay, no more! :)

L.J., Sorry, I forgot to put in the qualification. I'll do it now.

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