SNEAK PEEKS FOR VOICES
BLOOD QUEEN SNEAK PEEK! This sneaky peeky is only available for my newsletter voices. Enjoy! Also, there are a few lines I’m still debating on. Please feel free to email me your thoughts on them. Enjoy chapters one and two.
Brandy saw a vision of my death, I know she did. It’s why she pushed me away and treated me like an insect, didn’t want me to get close to her. Didn’t want to see me die. Or didn’t want to care when it happened. We were separated now, I knew that much, but if her diviner magic was right then I would be seeing her again soon enough. Though now I debated whether I wanted to face what horrors she saw in her visions.
“Part of the light… Part of the dark… balance… the moon… love…” I heard the words fade from my mind, and I tried to hang on to the memory of my mother as best I could. She was in more of a messed-up situation than I was. My mom was waiting for me to free her soul from being the Oracle, and find a talisman that would transfer her powers to the next oracle in succession. No pressure or anything. But that same talisman had the power to make me human again, so it’s not like there wasn’t something in it for me too.
It was only a few months ago that I was more worried about whether Victor was going to kiss me or not, changing our friendship forever. Now, Victor, at least who he used to be, was a distant memory along with the girl I once was.
I now knew my mom was alive, on the edge between life and death, trapped for her magic, and my dad wasn’t even human. From what I could gather, he purposefully had his memories removed so he could raise me away from the dangers of the supernatural world, but he was demon royalty and the shadows had been watching me whether he wanted them to or not.
Everyone had a plan for me, but this was my life, what was left of it anyway, and I was determined to figure out my own path.
Waves of popping white lava cascaded over my body, transporting me to an unknown world, deep within the Underrealm, layman’s terms… hell. I raced towards hell like a kitten to milk, jumping straight into a portal where I was supposed to find that talisman. I probably wouldn’t have done it, if I were alone, at least I didn’t think I would have.
The bubbles of clear gel liquid surrounding me distorted my vision, where I could barely see the tip of my own nose. I reached out to ground myself, but nothing was there. Doubling over, my stomach lurched in rolls through the confused state. I swallowed praying to keep what insides I had right where they were, inside.
I closed my eyes waiting for the feeling to pass, and I held myself because I was the only thing that was solid. The air was heavy and I knew I wasn’t alone anymore, if I was alone at all to begin with.
“Ughhh.” I felt my stomach squeeze and release before seeing a large dagger jutting mere centimeters from my eye.
Its sharp point blurred my vision.
It looked red, already colored by its last victim.
I wanted to back away, but the solid cocoon I found myself in prevented me. My arms, and legs immobilized.
It looked like no other weapon I had ever seen before. Moving from my eye down the solid mass in front of me it, cutting at the membrane that surrounded my vision. As it descended the tension around my body eased until it fell from me in chunks. I froze in place realizing it wasn’t a dagger that released me from the hardened rock I broke from.
A scorpion’s stinger unfurled from the slim waist of an attractive woman. She had dark eyes and her black hair shadowed them before she ran her fingers through the silken trundles. Her torso was bare and only molten lava rock shaped around her, a breast plate of armor that shined like black glass. A metallic taste filled my mouth at the realization that I found her in all regards alluring, but I knew something was terribly wrong with that thought process. She wasn’t normal, but neither was I anymore.
“I will not stay here longer than necessary. Finish the mission princess,” she scolded me as if we knew each other.
My mouth hung open and continued to stare at her. Who was she calling princess anyway?
A wry smile crossed her lips and she turned towards me. Her finger traced from my ear down my chin and lightly pushed my jaw shut.
Those dark eyes narrowed seductively before she spoke again, my chest tightened, “You surprise me.” Her smile broadened and she turned away from me with swaying hips that rocked from side to side and I remembered myself again as her stinger curled back around her. I shook my head and looked around expecting to see someone, anyone I knew, and sighed knowing I felt nobody around besides the heavy feeling of the woman in front of me and myself. I knew, before I even looked, that it was just us, but I looked around anyway.
What was wrong with a little bit of hope that Aislin would be right behind me, waiting to grab my hand and tell me this was all a dream. It’s time to wake up now Chrys, she would say, the space around me would fade to black like we were in the astral plane the whole time. I would sit up on the couch and see her smiling at me from the other cushion, her eyes would be contact free, her hair messy without a care in the world. We’d both be in sweats lounging around, without the fear of death around the corner. We’d both be home… and safe.
What I wouldn’t give to wake up and go to the Ballroom Arts Studio, dance, earn a paycheck, and drink a cup of coffee with Aislin grinning back at me while she interrogated me about boys. Boys… men really, older than the town I lived in. But so was my soul… technically.
The tall scorpion woman stood at the edge of a cliff looking out beyond the canyon. She was at least six-foot high, and she didn’t hunch over at all, she embraced her height, relishing the feeling of superiority at towering over her subjects. Because that’s what it felt like to be looked down upon by those eyes, a subject to be ruled over.
I took a quick look around once more finally realizing the predicament we were in. Aislin was nowhere to be seen, I knew she wasn’t there, I would have felt her. That’s all that mattered to me was finding her, I only just found her again. On the small ledge of rock on a mountainside looking out at a ravine so deep below us and so far above us that we seemed to be stuck in the middle of nowhere, with no means of going anywhere, we stood there unmoving. Scorpion Lord and the pauper against what, I didn’t know.
“I’d say we were lucky to have made it so close to the city, but luck had nothing to do with it,” she cooed, an arrogant smirk on her face.
Beyond the canyon was another cliff, far on the other side that looked to have a hidden town buried within the mountain. Only noticeable by the reflecting sun off the glass or metal buildings shinning in the distance.
Finally remembering what she said before, I found my voice, “What mission?”
She glared back at me obviously annoyed by my lack of understanding before she reluctantly answered, “Find the talisman moon princess. These are the trial grounds. They have a mind of their own, even I do not control their will. It thought to bring me here with you, so here I am…” She trailed off and rubbed her hands over her sides and along her hips, over top the lump of the scorpion segments, as if she caressed a lost lover. Closing her eyes, she savored the feel of her own body, and I didn’t know whether she was relishing her survival of the journey or if there was more to this display that I had to avert my gaze from seeing something too personal that made my cheeks flush.
“The trial grounds are as old as the astral plane herself, each realm has existed before even myself.” I didn’t know if she was talking to me or self-reflecting out into the vast distance between us and the nearest town on the other side of the mountain.
“Does this place follow the same rules as the astral plane?” I peered over the edge and felt my skin prickle at the idea of walking off it like I did the building top in Astral Society not that long ago. Traveling through astral space was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be.
Arching a brow at me in a form of amusement she answered, “It’s been known to change the rules to its liking, but no, it resists being controlled. You will have to rely on your own gifts here.” She looked me up and down like I was some kind of meat she was deciding if I was worth eating or leaving.
“I’m not tasty, if you’re thinking of eating me.”
She laughed. “You would certainly be unsatisfying in your current state. I have no intention of eating you.” Her eyes lowered at me. “I have no need for you outside the prophesy of finding the talisman. It says nothing of me having to keep you after that.”
I gasped feeling mortality ripple away from my greedy hands. I had to find the talisman, but what of when I actually found it? I didn’t think that far, and what use was I once it was found? How much time would I have with it before someone else took it? What was the prophesy people kept talking about anyway? I pressed my lips together not wanting to find the talisman while she was with me, after all, she had no use for me once it was found.
She noticed the stiffness in my spine and smiled. “It doesn’t say I should keep you, but it didn’t say you weren’t needed either. I’ll wait until my queen is found before I decide what to do with you.”
Her words struck a chord with me, resonating the same way the demon Marcus said the same words to me, release my queen, he had said, restore the balance.
“Marcus…” I let his name slip from my lips. Her eyes narrowed menacingly at me.
“You will not address me so informally.” Her button nose wrinkled in disgust that I would even dare say his name. I repeated her words in my mind, address me, and my eyes widened in response.
“But you’re…” My tongue caught in my cheek unable to complete my thought out loud. She couldn’t be, could she? But she was… a she? Most definitely a female.
“I am all forms,” she scoffed at me like I was an insect disparaging her current ‘form’.
I was beyond shocked, but not because of her female form, but because her eyes looked so much softer now than they were the first time I saw her as male. His eyes were terrifying, and the intensity in them bore deep into my soul like I was a mission to be conquered, and what he would do with me was mysterious, unknown, and dark.
Stepping back, I noticed that same look creep into her eyes. I believed her, she was the Marquis of the Underrealm. I rolled my shoulders trying to control the shiver of fear that look inspired in me. She couldn’t know how much she frightened me, but somehow the smirk on her face relayed she already knew.
“You, dear compass, will lead me to the talisman and to my queen. You have no choice but to be drawn to it whether I ask it of you or not. You will find it,” like she was reading my mind, knowing I debated leading her anywhere, she continued, “You have no choice.”
I wanted to ask why everyone was so sure that the prophesy would come true, that I would find the talisman? And if they were so sure of it, then why were so many people so eager to kill me, help me, or find it themselves? I had a feeling no one was willing to answer that, so I asked what I could.
“Why do people keep calling me princess, if I’m supposed to die?” I grasped the skirt of my tattered school uniform, that reverted back to its normal state after I exited the astral plane. There were no instant outfits here, I had what I had. A torn white shirt tied under my arm to keep the one side over my breast, and the sleeve ripped from its place. It revealed my living tattoo writhing under my skin like enchanted octopus ink crawling along my shoulder and up my neck, the mark of a demon.
“Contrary to popular belief amongst the Moon Goddesses’ followers, the Divine Council knows a truth about her that they keep secret.” She paused here and looked me over assessing whether I was worthy to know more than what was deemed necessary for the mission.
Marquis continued, whether it was because it was needed or just to mess with my head was up for debate, “The Oracle of the moon is a tribute given to the Moon Goddess, that grants power to those in possession of her, but also is a sacrifice to the goddess for her gifts. You princess are marked as the sacrifice for these gifts to the realms.” She said it so matter of fact that I was shocked.
It was as if this were all normal procedure and sacrifices must be made, I just happen to be one of them. She didn’t care… and why should she, she didn’t even know me. But I knew me, I couldn’t even defend why I shouldn’t be sacrificed if I were put on trial for it. Afterall, wasn’t that my heritage to follow my mother’s path? I shook my head, growing more upset that I had made it all this way to find my mother was sacrificed to be an Oracle, and that I would face a similar fate.
Then I thought about where I was… the trial grounds, I was put on trial for this. I was in the trial, right now, right here, in this space, I was being tested. Why should I live, I asked myself, why should I anything? I wanted to bury my hands in my face and rock myself into oblivion, I didn’t have any answers for those questions.
Though, something inside me burned to prove them wrong, all of ‘them’, whoever that was, even me. Show them all that I was nobody’s sacrifice.
I finally spoke up, my voice coming out more timid than I intended, “That’s messed up.”
“You possess the catalyst to bring in great power, how you will be sacrificed was not foretold, but the last princess of divinity did not survive after retrieving the talisman. It is considered an honor to be memorialized for your sacrifice, your story will be told to children of why they have their freedoms for generations to come. Every part of your life will be documented and recreated for history, even your caregiver foolishly tried to save you from your fate by making a deal with the devil himself.” She laughed and gave me a sidelong glance. Following her eyes, I knew she was assessing the demon’s blood marking my exposed skin. I wanted to squirm under the scrutiny, but I rolled my shoulders back and tried to seem taller than I really was.
“Guess even demons have their weaknesses.” I tried to mimic how she was looking down at me. Chin taunt, not budging higher than I needed to, and if I were really glowering at her I would have had to lift my chin much higher to look her directly in her eyes, but I didn’t have to see them to give her the icy shoulder.
The time between fearing what she would do to me for insulting her, and actually knowing what she would do was heating my skin. The silence sent an ache through my chest that threatened to squeeze the life out of me before fate had the chance to do it through prophesy.
She gripped my arm spinning me to face her. With her other hand she pinched my cheeks together to lift my eyes to meet with hers. The fire in them was unmistakable.
“Do not test me,” the Marquis said through gritted teeth. The aura around her was heavy in the air, it beat down on me, making my knees buckle and straighten back up.
Closing my eyes, I focused my energy around myself, trying to press it outward just like Professor Goodly taught me. This may not have been the astral plane, but my aura was the same whether it was here or there. I felt it build within my throat feeling like acid rising from my stomach. The markings from my shoulder warmed under my flesh, vibrating against me.
The pressure on my cheeks loosened, and my eyes sprung open just in time to see her open-handed attack smash into my head sending me throttling into the ground. My cheek rubbed into the unforgiving surface. The sting of unbelievability and stunned ignorance at thinking I’d get through this whole ordeal without a scratch on me[ Hey, voices, what do you think of this line? too weird, alright, or thoughts?] . I feared death, but never once had I been struck like this before.
Dirt and gravel spilt out from my mouth. I touched my fingers to my raw lip. I could taste the metal of my own blood as my tongue glided across the tender bruise where my own teeth cut the inside of my cheek upon impact. The Marquis smiled triumphantly as my body groveled at her feet.
“I don’t need to touch you to hurt you.”
I looked up at her confused, and this only served to amuse her more before she threw me a bone to explain, “I don’t have to break your barrier to hurt you, just my strength alone can move your barrier where ever I want, it doesn’t lessen the impact does it?” With the flick of her booted foot she shoved my body, flipping me to the other side. I felt the bruise of the impact on my ribs as she brought the point firmly home with her demonstration.
I recoiled within myself realizing I hadn’t had enough time to really master the ability to protect myself with my aura, using it not just as a barrier, but as a way of deflecting attacks. I needed more time before the trials, guardians spent years perfecting their abilities, and here I was with only months of even knowing I had any abilities to begin with.
“I didn’t need to touch you to hurt you either,” I said before I could even think about it. Picking myself up off the ground I spit the blood from my mouth at her feet. I waited for the beating I would surely get for not meekly accepting her royal attacks with grace.
I stood there, eyes closed, not wanting to see it coming, and waiting there for the attack, but to my surprise it never came. I squinted my eyes open cautiously, and saw her ignoring me, again staring out over the cliff.
She said nothing, and did nothing.
Looking out at the town, I now knew why I was no longer important to her, whether I was or was not to begin with didn’t matter. A chunk of the buildings in the distance were crumbling down the mountain side, a massive collapsing mound of rubble peeled away from the surface. Folding down on itself, only half the town remained, and I now wondered whether I really wanted to go there, even if I found a way to. I could hear the screams of the residences all the way from here, it was the sound of dying animals, screeching through the dense air to land deafly in my ears.
Was I supposed to save them? If this was part of the test, how was I supposed to save their lives? Most of them were probably already dead, crushed beneath the rock.
“How do you stop a town from collapsing?” I whispered to myself.
The Marquis raised an eyebrow at me. “It is not your mission to save that town, or its people.”
“Maybe it’s yours,” I responded softly. Being the leader of the Underrealm probably gave her some sort of power that could be used to help them, didn’t it?
She seemed to ponder this seriously and shadows surrounded her, unfurling from her feet and gathering up. With a powerful hand she wrapped around sliding it into the lower divot of my back just above my skirt she pulled me against her[Hey, voices, what do you think of this line? too weird, alright, or thoughts?] . My body arched back preventing my face from slamming into the hard surface of her molten rock bodice, as my pelvis neatly fit against her upper thigh. Her other arm finished the job and pressed me firm against her curves until the darkness overtook us both before I had a chance to push away.
“Save them yourself then,” she responded menacingly. Wickedness swirled in those black eyes, as she released me choking on ash and flames amongst the tortured souls of the town that once was part of the mountain side.
I watched in horror as mystical beings that I had no name for clung to the carcass of what this half of the town used to be. Some had ledges of building still secured to rock that they desperately maneuvered on with merely an inch of reprieve for their feet to stand. While others bloodied and wounded scaled the wall of debris looking for a spot to rest, a place that they could prop themselves.
Burning flesh slipped from fingers sending a boy that looked no older than myself tumbling down the cliff side in a flaming husk of wails. I stepped forward reaching out dismally to the lost soul, my eyes stung at the sight of it. My heart ached.
The Marquis stepped up behind me, pulling me away from the ledge that crumbled mere seconds after the retreat. I watched the chunk of rock that could have had me on it fade into the depths of dying creatures. My limbs were frozen, I wouldn’t have moved if it weren’t for her pulling me away.
“You could have saved him,” she softly taunted me, the hairs behind my ears stood on end as her hot breath rippled forming goosebumps in its wake.
“What happened here?” I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“You there!” A man, a normal looking man by all accounts, yelled for me from a piece of metal coiled rebar slowly tugging from the floor it used to hold up before its fellow supports fell to the crater below. He looked familiar, like I knew him from somewhere before.
“I don’t know how to help you,” I sobbed.
He scoffed at me unsympathetically. “Diviners are all alike. Do you want to enslave me before or after you retrieve me from this post.” He paused waiting for a response before the rebar shifted once again. “I’ll just wait here while you take your sweet time about it. I’m sure the part of the floor that’s left will hold until you’re ready.”
“Fine, have it your way. Whatever, I don’t care who does or doesn’t release the Oracle, I just want to get out of this realm before it collapses with me in it.” He shifted on the bars he clung to adjusting his grip. Arching an eyebrow, he looked down at the devastation below and closed his eyes with a groan.
I stared at him frozen on what to do.
The metal supports tilted again, pulling away from the crumbling rock.
“I’ve read every piece of literature, heard every story, know every tale!” He screamed out, “I’ll tell you what you need to know. Just save my friend!” Carefully he revealed under his jacket an exposed heart beating against his own chest. It was alive, coagulated blood oozing from its torn arteries.
“That heart doesn’t have a body to go back to,” the Marquis finally spoke up. She began to shift away thinking these people were of no concern to her and the mission. When the body was gone, it was gone. There was no coming back from that.
The supports were now at a 45-degree angle and the man’s foot pressed into the curl where it broke at the ends. It was the only thing helping steady himself on it. His boot slipped dragging his body down the slope of the metal until he slammed the meat of his leg into the jagged edge to stop the trajectory. Blood gushed from the wound soaking his pant leg, as the other leg wrapped around the bar. Protecting the heart with his other arm prevented extra traction from that side. His screams were gut retching as he snarled at me.
“There’s a temple! For Hell’s sake! There is a temple!” The man roared in desperation.
This news intrigued the Marquis, stopping her in her exit from the scene. She remained still, and I noticed a break from the hardness that surrounded her. Knowing there was a temple that could revive a heart without a body was news. This stirred something in her, those steely feathers were ruffled.
I grimaced as the fibers of his clothing and muscle ripped with the weight of him. Unless he planned to skewer his leg fully into the rebar, his time was running out on his perch. This wasn’t the astral plane, I couldn’t transport to his spot and drag him back with me, and even if it were the astral plane, where would I have landed near him to then drag him with me? My breath became ragged with the sandglass closing in, nearing the end of any possible decisions or time for plans to save him. I looked around hurriedly, clamoring for anything that I could grab to help.
He was much too far out for me to throw a rope out. Even if I jumped I’d never reach him, he was in the middle of a large chunk of destroyed cliffside.
“How do I save you?” I cried.
His body slumped at my question, and then immediately tensed up again as he slid. The bar hung vertical, the wires holding it in the wall bent and cracked. “How did a blanch come to the grounds? What fates are laughing at me now?” He began laughing with unease, resigning himself to what was about to befall him.
I looked to the cliff walls and knew I didn’t have the skills to scale them. Trusting they would hold me if I did, was unlikely. Looking back at my temporary companion to plead for help, I was met with cold resistance. She could save him right now if she wanted to, merely shadow herself over there and be done with it, but she didn’t… wouldn’t do it. My breathing became labored with frustration. Hands shaking, I felt my shoulder burn.
With all of my broken insides I wanted to do something, anything more than be at the mercy of those around me. A tingling sensation worked its way from my fingers and outwards.
“No… don’t,” the Marquis said from behind me. It was so monotone, like she didn’t care at all whether I did anything but gave an emotionless warning against it anyway. What did she think I would do? Jump from the cliff? I had no plan.
I felt the darkness consume me. Lifting my hand in front I saw it fade in and out from the haze, like a spirit. What was so wrong with embracing the demon within me… if it meant I could help people?
I reached out to the man dangling for his life, and I felt my body grow hot. It was like feeling millions of atoms fighting to stay together but being torn apart violently in a tornado of fire. This felt nothing like the first time I felt myself fade in the battlefield rushing to save Kala, but unlike that time I didn’t use the astral plane to help me. My body was tearing itself in so many directions and the darkness was so hard to navigate, I was so lost.
I was drowning in the absence of everything, and yet full of all things. I was nothing… I couldn’t breathe, until I gasped for air and saw the face of the man I was trying to save inches from me. He was a ghost in my world… but he saw me. He shoved the heart in my hands and I watched as he dematerialized before I could even say, I’ve got you. My hands bloodied and dripping with his friend’s heart, held absently in my grasp. I looked around trying to find the exit from the darkness.
Coldness touched my toes, inching its way up. I was breathing again, but all I could see was the icy fog from my body heat drifting from my core. A hand reached out to me, digging into my arm, and yanking me from the depths of nothing.
Coughing I could feel real air enter my lungs again. I dropped to my knees still holding the heart in my hands, feeling its sticky liquid drip down my forearm, and then onto the ground. I blinked away the shadows, seeing the devastated town once more.
I looked up in the Marquis’ eyes glaring at me.
“The Skid is for the skilled, not merely a right by blood. It eats blanches for breakfast.” That was the second time someone had called me a blanch… and I had no idea what it meant. I didn’t have to know its exact meaning to know it was not a good thing.
“I’m not a breakfast kind of girl.” I stared down at the heart in my hands, nodding internally to myself that I was indeed far from being hungry at all. I didn’t even remember the last time I ate real food… then again, what was ‘real’ food for me these days? I felt a lump in my throat grow and I swallowed it back down with a frown. The heart dropped from my hands to the dusty, rubble strewn dirt. An overwhelming cold had me quickly covering the bumps with my mauve-covered fingers.
“Any who grow cold from fear in the Skid are breakfast kind of creatures.” She smirked at me while I shivered, still trying to regain the heat I’d lost from being stuck in the shadows for too long. I wanted to stiffen and remove my hands from warming my arms, but I was too cold to let go of myself, too freaked out to look at the blood spreading itself around. So, I did the next semi-best or worst thing, depending on how you looked at it.
I stood, walked directly up to her and pressed my bare freezing arms, still wrapped around myself, still marred by someone else’s blood, against her warm exposed torso. I smiled into her chest, knowing that even if she wasn’t reacting… the chill would infect her worse than me.
I breathed in deep feeling her warmth bring pink back into my cheeks.
Stiffening, the Marquis’ arms enveloped me, pressing me farther into one of the most awkward situations. As my body warmed the blood seemed to finally take hold in my senses, sending aches through my stomach. I felt more hungry the longer I let the ache build on itself.
Behind me the heart pulsed in my ears, it was far from dead, and yet it was separated from its home. I breathed in the scent of the Marquis, her solid frame supporting me as a heavy miasma pressed into my back. Air came in quick jolts through my lungs. Pressure was building against me and I shifted to cling onto her arms, my fingers dug into her stone flesh as I writhed against myself.
I could see memories that were not my own float behind my eyelids, rolling my vision back into the darkness of my skull. A lump formed in my chest, an invader hijacking my insides.
Then I felt it…
A sensation I thought I’d never feel again.
Trying to pull away from her arms wrapping around me I grasped at my ribcage as the sharp pain radiated out. My eyes pleading to her for an explanation. All I could do was turn around, my back pressed against her as she continued to hold me tight. I looked down at the bloody mess at my feet… the heart was gone… I looked out at the twisted rebar flooring… and it was clinging by only one strand of wire, dangling in the wind, barely even enough strength to keep itself up, the man was gone.
My hand against my chest, I felt it beating within me.
“Something is wrong…” I said breathlessly.
“Someone would have eaten it if you didn’t,” she said in hushed tones that I assumed were supposed to comfort me or prevent me from freaking out among the already chaotic backdrop of a burning city. My dark hair swept up in the wind just in time to hide the horror on my face at what I had done unwittingly or not.
The juxtaposition of where I stood was so polarized that even I was stunned into acceptance for a second. Double guessing my own emotions on whether I should be appalled or secretly thankful for their ambivalence that kept me under the radar in comparison to such a catastrophe.
To one side stood a vibrant town embedded into the cliffside of the mountain. Its buildings were ornate and integrated into the wall like a floating city of metal, rock, marble, and… gold. It was like seeing palaces jutting out from nothing, and the town’s alleyways were intricate balconies weaving through, around, under, and above the large bulbous structures cascading down the mountain. Some of the walkways looked made of opaque glass, carved and lacing along its route like a dream. On the other side of the mountain the sun blared down, glinting off the glass and metal, it was too bright to stare in that direction for long.
We stood at the edge of this masterpiece of engineering and probably magical creation, while behind us stood the flames of part of this city exploded in massive devastation. Creatures struggled for their lives: people, monsters, magical beings, and forms I’d never seen before. I painfully looked on as one man grabbed hold of a still flaming pipe where gases shot off igniting the surrounding area. He gleefully twisted the pipe to aim it at another climbing up the rocks. Setting him on fire, the figure in the distance screamed falling from the cliff, while the rest laughed and cheered. It was a massacre where the victims preyed on each other while they escaped the rubble themselves.
This was hell… this was the Underrealm.
The civilized part of town either ignored the incident entirely… or joined in, swinging from debris and torturing the nearest unfortunates within their reach. I closed my eyes, unable to stand it.
“They aren’t killing each other… at least… not all of them.” The Marquis tried to explain.
“What do you mean? They are falling to their deaths.” In a fit of emotion, I lost my own mind shoving my freshly bruised face back into her embrace to muffle my whimpers. As much as I hated to admit it to myself, which I refused to do, this demon was all I had to guide me through this chaos.
“Most of them are demons, they may be worse for wear after a fall this high, but they’ll climb back up eventually. A dead body is just an inconvenience.” She was un-phased by any of the ‘play’ the twisted souls were taking part in around us.
“That man, is he okay?”
“Probably, as long as his heart is intact after impact.” She grinned and wiped at her lips as if she were the one that had just absorbed a man’s heart. Pausing only to let that fact sink in she continued, “You do not want to get involved. You are something other, I wouldn’t test how true living with a dead body would be for you, or if you’d live at all. Part demon or not.”
Other, is what she called me. I wasn’t even accepted as being one of them. I wasn’t even accepted as being a diviner. Brandy’s scowl at finding out I had any demon in me at all proved that ten-fold. She was a true diviner, skilled, trained, and probably out there finding the talisman without me, with Kala at her side. At least, I hoped the rest of them were all together. What if everyone was separated? Deep down… I knew they were.
The only monsters who wanted to claim me as one of them were the serpents. Only the serpents wanted me as their own, and yet I felt less one of them than anything else.
What kind of trial would this be if… my thoughts stopped. I needed to know which one I was… what power did I bring to find the talisman? The Oracle said I needed all of the powers to find the talisman. I couldn’t do this without them. We needed to find each other again. My heart ached feeling like I had already missed them. They were already here, and I was too late.
I had to go into the metropolis that from far away seemed like merely a town, but as I stood at its base, it was overwhelming. I pushed away from her disturbingly safe feeling embrace, despite the scary, creepy, dangerous, and all together menacing vibe I got from her. She was a bundle of contradictions, kicking my ass one moment and protecting me the next.
I couldn’t help but wonder why she bothered at all, when all she was going off of was a flimsy tale of prophesy that contradicted itself by how many people felt compelled to get me from point a to point b. If it weren’t for the prophesy, I’d probably have died many times over, so was it the chicken or the egg that came first? Am I alive still because I am a part of the prophesy, or only alive because a prophesy was told.
I’ve seen myself in action… I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about. How was I supposed to accomplish anything? Like she was reading my thoughts, the Marquis asked absently to herself, “What is so special about you?”
“I drank the wrong cup of milk on Alice’s table,” I replied knowing she wasn’t looking for me to answer, but hiding my frustration was becoming too tiresome to keep up with.
She ignored my comment and walked away from me, making me feel foolish for having said anything, and in one foul swoop making me sense I had answered her question with a resounding, nothing special about this one here.
I shook my head and followed behind her like a lost spirit, what else was I supposed to do? Stay here and bet my chances on surviving amongst the rebellious legions frolicking in the death zone behind us? No, thank you.
We thankfully took the path through the city and not around it… that route was beautiful, but the railings were inversed underneath the walkway, looking like laced ice, making me fear one sudden slip of the foot would help me discover just how much demon or divine I was right away. All while I plummeted to the depths of the rocky mountainside.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“A temple,” she replied like she knew where she was going, which was more than I could say for myself.
Touching my chest, I could feel the heart I ate was still alive, inside me. Would we be able to bring him back? Was this his heart, or his friend’s heart? Was this part of the trials? A test?
The town seemed smaller from across the chasm, but now that we were in it… it was much too large to find anything or anyone simply by looking around, there was too much to see. And I suspected there was more to the size of this place than meets the eye. What I saw was deceiving, magic was all around me.
I tugged on the Marquis’ arm, my grasp sliding down her forearm to lightly caress and release off her fingers as she moved forward. My pace slowed creating more of a gap between us. She spun around agitation clearly on her face, and I panicked with the knowledge that I may have noticed something she did not.
“The temple is here.” She waved her hand before us. Here meaning somewhere in this vast, unknown space ahead of us, or behind us, or even beside us. Maybe above us… or below. It didn’t matter where around, but something was off. This place was off.
“No,” was all I could say.
“No,” she repeated growling at me, “No, you say.” She threw her hands down her sides preparing to whirl on me. Instead, I was surprised to see her plow into me, shoulder into my abdomen, and lifting me into the air. She stood there with my shocked form piled atop her, unmoving. The Marquis put me down slowly, backing away from me. Re-approaching me she eased me back onto her shoulder carefully. The whole action sequence confused me, but still I was adamant.
A limp rag doll in her arms I repeated to her, “No. Something is wrong.”
Demons, people, creatures passed us by, unperturbed by our exchange.
She stopped this time, to listen to me.
“Everything seems different. When we move, but it feels fuzzy like I’m not really moving.”
“Only for you, though,” she admitted, “I feel the change when I have you, but not when I put you down.”
“Just me then,” I said. Typical that I would be the only one to suffer from magic.
“I’ve felt this before, you’ve been ensnared by a djinn that hoped I’d walk off still thinking you were behind me when you hadn’t moved at all. Had I walked too far away, you’d disappear from my vision, I’d disappear from yours, and they’d have grabbed you for themselves. They picked the wrong demon to steal from,” Marquis said before patting me on the bum and carrying me forward.
I squirmed in her grasp panting out, “I’m not your property.” Only leading to her holding me tighter. I could feel the pressure build around me as we moved forward. The magic struggled against being moved, pulled back on me I felt myself slipping down her back headfirst. My breath caught in my throat as her scorpion tail unfurled, one of the segments pressed against me to keep me locked down against her, as the stinger floated above me bouncing with the sway of her movements. I closed my eyes and begged the universe for me not to die by scorpion stabbing.
“Nor would I want you to be, I’ve had statues more useful than you,” she chided back at me like I was a mere insect she had to cover to protect me from the magnifying glass hovering over my weak vessel. An obstacle in her way to finding the talisman.
As we passed by a mirrored building, I could see the other side of the Marquis in the reflection. The one I remembered from before the trials. His muscular arms, bare sculpted torso, and a stronger, meaner looking scorpion appendage. He looked at me in the reflection, and I blushed, wanting to turn away from the view, but unable to take my eyes off him. A sinister smile crossed his lips, and the surface disappeared behind us, moving on to the next structure. Her tail adjusted and I felt like I was falling, but the bulk of her segmented weapon held me in place. She adjusted her hold on me and it seemed gentler than before.
“I need you to promise me something,” she said in a hushed tone, her voice seemed far away.
“Why should I promise anything to you?” I huffed back.
“I need you to keep very calm.” She merely seemed like an echo in my mind, like I was under water and the blood was rushing to my head from being held upside down too long.
I didn’t know what she meant by that, I thought I was being very calm considering the circumstances of being a sack of potatoes over her shoulder.
“I am calm,” I croaked.
“Fine have it your way. I need you not to say anything when I tell you I am not the one carrying you right now. When you slid off my back, I let the djinn take you.”
“YOU WH—” I was cut off before I could finish my crescendo. My body bounced on what I thought was Marquis’ shoulder, blowing air out my lungs.
“Let them take you, don’t resist. Everyone who is here has been here for centuries, the only time they have an opportunity to leave, or for new faces to come in is during the trials. You, my compass, are a new face. They will take us to the temple.”
“And all new faces—”
“Will be taken to the temple,” she finished before I could say it myself, “you have to stop talking. They don’t know I’m following. They can hear you.”
“And they can’t—”
“Hear me, no. We can only hope they think your mind is deranged. You have a problem with listening and following a simple task of not saying anything. Keep quiet, let them take you, and I’ll take you back into the Skid with me when we have what we need.” She was frustrated with me, and I fumed at being used as bait, while she stayed hidden within the shadows.
I knew that what I saw around me wasn’t where I was anymore. My surroundings were drafty, and I could smell fresh blood mingling with the equally real feeling of being outside with the soft warmth of the sun, and the tempered wind around buildings walking through the city.
I was far enough away from the carnage of the explosion on the east side, that the smell of rotting, flame-broiled demons was long gone from me senses. In fact, the moment I passed over the threshold of the bustling businesses’ alleyways, any perception of the outskirts was gone. No wonder, no one cared about what had happened, they probably didn’t even know.
“I smell blood.” I sniffed again. “Fresh, still pumping…” I felt my new heart beat rapidly at the feelings building within me. Strange enough, hunger wasn’t the primary anxiety. It was different, I felt possessive. This blood was mine, like it belonged to me.
“Do you know where you are?” The Marquis put me down, towering over me. It wasn’t her. I looked around, still seeing the streets of the city, with traffic of people passing us by. I ignored the sounds of what seemed normal and focused on what seemed different. The wall behind me was rough, though the building should be smooth.
“I’m in a cave,” I guessed, hearing whispers beyond the bustle.
“I told you she was different,” another man’s voice said addressing the fake Marquis.
“We are inside the mountain,” she confirmed, though who the she was behind the Marquis’ face, I didn’t know.
“She shouldn’t know where she is or be able to move,” the man’s voice said in the distance.
“Who are you?” I asked.
Lifting my hand up to the fake Marquis I knew I actually moved my arm and felt the real face of who was behind it. It didn’t feel like what I saw in front of me. Stunned, the figure stayed where it was, letting me touch them like a blind person seeing a face beyond the darkness. I still couldn’t visualize what I felt, I didn’t have the skill to do so, but I knew their face was narrow and stubble scratched my skin. Their cheek raised up in a smile and I could feel teeth beneath my thumb as they placed their razor-sharp canines gently against it. I felt the prick breaking the barrier between my blood and the outside world. His tongue lapped up the nectar and I felt him ease my hand away with his. My eyes strained against what I saw and what I felt.
“She doesn’t see us though, she just knows that what she sees isn’t real. It’s fascinating, I’ve never seen a fledgling fight against a seasoned casting,” he said.
“You should be careful what you say, I can see it in her eyes, she may be able to hear us, even when we aren’t manipulating the cast,” the fake Marquis said, but I could hear his real voice now, the Marquis’ face was unmoving and silent.
He lowered his voice to a whisper hoping that it would prevent me from hearing over the sound of the daydream I was in, “She has royal blood.”
“What do you mean?” He replied under his breath. I averted my eyes to my sore thumb hoping they wouldn’t notice I could still hear them.
“Piece it together, we can’t sell her. She has the mark of the moon under her ear, demon markings on her shoulder, a debt to the Dragon on her wrist…” His list faded off as he paused, which I could only assume was to check on if I could hear what they were saying.
I repeated my last question hoping they would think I was waiting for an answer, “Who are you? I know you’re there… say something… It’s creeping me out seeing things move when I’m not. I’m getting vertigo.”
The fake Marquis picks me up, this time cradling me in her arms, swooping my feet out from under me. I was actually moving though, this wasn’t a trick of the mind. She opened a door to one of the businesses and inside was a lavishly decorated room, it wasn’t a business at all.
Lying me down on a cushioned chair she finally spoke to me in the dream, “Help yourself to something more comfortable to wear.
She opened the closet and revealed a single golden dress. Taking it from the hanger, she draped it over me. Snapping her fingers, the dress melted onto me. Liquid gold laced its way through my clothing, it burned up and sizzled into ash floating above me, then drifting away.
My clothing was gone, and replaced with the dress. I felt the fabric, it was softer than it looked. I felt like what he thought I was, royalty, it was the most expensive and elaborate dress I had ever worn. That was saying something considering all of the ballroom dresses I’d adorned the past few years. It hugged my curves and dipped low into my cleavage, I placed my hand to my chest unconsciously to cover it.
“Is this real?” I felt it with my hands, it felt real.
She nodded then left the room.
“You can’t be saying what I think you’re saying,” they whispered again.
I got up and walked around the room, feeling as much as I could. Hoping I seemed occupied enough that they’d keep talking.
“She’s moving around the room like she doesn’t have a finger full of venom in her,” he continued.
“We can’t risk giving her more, people have gone into comas with more than that. You know what I’m saying.”
“We left the order a long time ago Raleas, you can’t possibly think that the trials have begun again,” the more squirrely sounding one said in hushed tones. And they were right, the trials had begun again, and I wondered how long they’d been in this realm?
“It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been gone. Royal blood hasn’t been in this realm since the last trial, and we are sworn to the moon.”
“So say the moon.”
“So say we all,” Raleas said in a sober way echoing a hallow feeling that ached even from here. There was pain in those words, and I needed to know what that meant. Why were they so morose?
“The temple will prove your theory, we’ll take her there. If you’re wrong then we’ll sell her to the traders.”
“I’m not wrong,” he said and then I saw another figure enter the room. It wasn’t fake Marquis, but I didn’t think it was what he actually looked like either.
“Who are you?” I repeated.
“My apologies,” he bowed, “You may call me R.”
“Like a pirate?” I raised an eyebrow.
“What is a pirate?” He lifted his head from the bow and walked forward. I stepped back out of habit, not that it would have helped had he decided to hurt me. Marquis forced that realization on me the hard way.
I shrugged. “It’s a person who steals things, lives for adventure, danger, and crime.”
“Then yes, I am exactly as you say.” He smiled. “But, in this instance I’m more of a servant to the wishes of the Goddess. You have no need to fear me, I will take you to the temple where you must pass the first of the trials. You are of course following those same wishes of the Goddess, are you not?”
“A servant to the moon?” I questioned.
He nodded approving of my curiosity and happily answered, “You will open the temple doors that have been locked since the last trials. It allows us to go home, and a new order will take our place here in Pailturr.”
“So, you want to leave?”
“The realm has been unruled and most difficult to survive in these past centuries. Many who are here were banished, wandered here, or chosen by duty.” He slammed his fist into his chest at the mark of duty and then proceeded to close the gap between us. It wasn’t what he did, or how he said it, but something in me triggered as I backed away from him. The smell of blood was growing stronger. He felt duty bound to me… for now, while he thought I was whatever he thought I was.
“There is always a ruler… even among the unruled,” I replied.
He seemed pleased with my retort, egging him on to stalk me more carefully, as I reached the end of my rope… the wall of rock stopped my foot before I could take another step.
“Yes, Pailturr tries to rule the lands as best she can, but she is not as merciful as the Goddess in her reign.” He stood mere inches from my face, his real breath heating the skin on my neck as he seemed to peer at the markings radiating under my shell.
Straightening my back and jutting my chin, I wondered where Marquis was during this whole thing. I closed my eyes realizing that he wouldn’t interfere until the temple was found.
“What happened to the east side of the city?”
“She happened to the east side of the city,” he answered simply.
“So, you know that people are dying?” I narrowed my eyes at him.
“People is such a misused term, don’t you think?” He cocked his head slightly and took my arm, placing it over his own to guide me away from the stench filling my nose.
“Ugh, it smells like rot.”
“She can smell him, we need to leave,” Squirrely whispered to Raleas.
“That is what it is, rot of the worst kind. They call themselves guardians of the moon, yet they have butchered the Goddess’ word and turned against her and her wishes.”
“What are you doing? She doesn’t need to know everything unless she can open the temple,” he hissed.
“What are her wishes then? To let this realm burn and everyone in it?” I pressed into his arm shoving him, though he did not budge at my attempts.
“Not exactly, this realm was created out of the need and desire to have a safe place for refugees to go, in times of war, or genocide. There are species here that otherwise would have been extinct,” he said to me while leading me out of the room, I was blind to what was actually around me, but I could sense something that was mine, it felt like mine. Smelled like cinnamon.
“But after the last trials this land was overrun with demons that never had a leader to temper their anger, and rally for peace. They were at war, they were used, and they were mistreated. The doors to this realm opened to them for refuge, but wouldn’t let them leave.” He stopped.
“Prison,” I said breathless.
“Exactly,” he continued, “what started as a haven, quickly became a struggle for order, and greed, in a place they felt was desolate of everything they ever knew. But, demons will only follow royal blood, so chaos rules these lands.”
“Why only royal blood?”
“Don’t tell her any more Raleas, if she does have royal blood then you’re itching for a war.” I imagined spittle spewing from his lips in a forced attempt to control his volume, it was in the sound of moisture snapping between his words. He tried to keep the hushed tones they thought I couldn’t hear beyond the veil of their illusion.
“I’ve already tasted her blood,” he addressed the squirrel, his lips unmoving in the vision I saw. He merely looked contemplative and if I didn’t know better, merely trying to find the best way to answer me if I didn’t hear him talking beyond my eyes, so to speak.
“Those with the blood in them take on the orientation of that royal. Should the royal be good, the demons align with good. Should the royal be evil, they align with the darkness. This is why we have waited for the moon princess to open the temple and release the Queen. The Queen will decide our alignment and bring unity among the lands, freeing her people, and in her rule this realm will be named after her, and it will bend to her will alone. In her reign we will be rewarded for our unwavering loyalty in her absence,” Raleas finished with a flair for the dramatic story teller, waving his hand and ushering me forward like we were destined to save the people.
It made more sense though. The pieces were finally fitting together for me. Everything that people were saying about the prophesy, why so many didn’t want the Queen released. Who was to know what side the Queen would align with. Would she be the Queen of Light or the Queen of Darkness? Her decision, if it was even hers to make, would bring a mass amount of people together for the greater good or evil. Who wanted to take the fifty-percent chance that she would lead an army into centuries of darkness?
A pang echoed in my heart. I couldn’t even tell myself, which side of anything I would choose if I were in the Queen’s position. Both sides have something awful to say about the other, which one was even truly dark or light?
“Perception is reality,” Marquis’ voice murmured in my ear from the Skid, reminding me I was not alone here. “I can sense your wavering loyalties. Let me just tell you that there is no dark or light, merely shades of reality.” Her voice faded between a feminine slither and masculine dominance, she was neither and both just like my sense of self.
“Does that help ease your turmoil?” I heard the Marquis cackle knowing full well all they did was confuse me further.
There was no light or dark… I repeated to myself. I could hear my own mother’s words, you are balance, she said to me before I even understood words.
“What if it were both?” I asked.
“What if what were both?” Raleas looked at me curiously.
“The alignment, what if the Queen is both.”
He laughed heartily like I was a foolish schoolgirl, naïve to the world. Gaining his bearings once more he responded, “Wouldn’t that be interesting?”
Woah! Want to read more? Stay tuned my voices, and it shall be delivered to you. Remember, these chapters are pre-edit. My editor has not done her magic on them, but if you see something glaring, or helpful, or just want to let me know your favorite part then please do email me. Respond back to the email you got this link from. Thank you again! Also, be sure to keep an eye out for next month’s sneak peek…
VOTE now by emailing me. Which sneak peek would you rather have… more of Blood Queen from Crystal’s view… or from Shakespeare’s view? (
Originally, I had a bunch of Shakespeare chapters interspersed with the story. I cut them from the main book so as not to confuse people who don’t like to switch point of views. Lucky for you voices, you can get a sneak peek at those chapters, and I may release them all in a future book.)