Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: November 30, 2020
Lead In: Quaking Soul opens with Na’rina, a dryad, attending a mysterious meeting to find out what or who might be attacking the mythics (dwarves, fauns, dryads, etc.). She’s frightened to find out the wer-im, a species of were-cats who were banished centuries before, called the meeting. Their leader, the Wer-Kadis, insists the wer-im are not behind the attacks. He offers an alliance against whoever is behind everything. However, the initial meeting is interrupted and the Wer-Kadis promises the other mythics they will be safe if they attend a second meeting.
Na’rina, Obek the dwarf and his companion, and a mountain nymph or oread are the only ones brave enough to show up for the second meeting, but once again, it is interrupted by the appearance of humans.
Before he could respond, a branch snapped and they heard footsteps.
“The view’s worth it,” said a young boy’s voice.
The wer-im vanished. Obek pulled on his companion’s sleeve and they rushed from the clearing.
“Hide, Sister,” the oread whispered, sinking into the ground with a low shock to the air.
Na’rina grabbed the maple behind her but as her zoi aima touched the tree’s, sparks shot into her. She gasped, shocked and frozen in place. What just happened?
“It better be worth it,” wheezed an older voice, close to the clearing.
The Wer-Kadis pulled Na’rina from the tree with a growl. He wrapped his arms around her and jumped. Her stomach flipped. With ease, he swung them up against the trunk before freezing just as three humans entered the clearing below.
Na’rina’s heart, once dislodged from her throat, beat against her ribs in a painful rat-a-tat. She sucked in and held her breath until the beat softened and she could exhale without being heard. The Wer-Kadis still held her tight around her middle as swarms of gray flies swam in her vision.
“Look!” The boy, roughly ten years old, grinned in triumph as he pointed to the valley below.
The two men following him were not excited. One, with thinning white hair, gripped his knees to wheeze, the extra flesh on his face trembling. The other man might be the same age, but it was hard to tell. Wrinkles fanned out from his eyes and mouth but his slicked-back hair, looking almost like a shell, still shone a healthy blond. Both men wore black suits with once-shiny leather shoes. They couldn’t be more out of place than oceanids in the desert.
The Wer-Kadis’ cheek brushed Na’rina’s ear as he leaned forward. His tensed posture spoke volumes. Across the clearing, a blaze of orange, there and gone, flashed amidst the leaves of another maple. Na’rina narrowed her eyes. There. She spotted the wer-im where he perched, tensed in the branches. His eyes flicked from the humans to the Wer-Kadis, taking his cues from his leader.
“Can see the whole section,” the boy declared, puffing out his chest. He held out his hand. The blond man huffed but pulled several bills from his pocket and dropped them into the boy’s waiting hand. The boy stuffed the cash into his pocket, gave a sloppy salute, and bolted back the way they’d come.
The heavy man, still hunched over, wheezed and glared at the boy’s retreating back until he was lost from sight. “Least he didn’t lie.”
The other man shrugged. “We would have known if he did.”
He received a hum in response. Without a glance at the view, the men turned to the maple in which Na’rina and the Wer-Kadis hid. A deep growl vibrated against Na’rina’s back. Still gripping her waist, he leaned over her shoulder, teeth bared, to brace on a branch in preparation to attack.
Na’rina stared at his teeth. She almost raised a hand to check the spacing between his canines. Wer-im were known for dropping from trees to sever the spines of their prey with one quick bite that slid those teeth between one vertebra and the next. She didn’t have to check to know the spacing was perfect. Cold realization drained the blood from her face. He wasn’t just being cautious. She glanced at the humans, then across the clearing to that waiting spot of orange hair. She’d never killed or been a part of killing another animal. Before she could think twice, Na’rina placed a trembling palm against the Wer-Kadis’ chest and applied pressure. A cold drop of water hit Na’rina’s ear. She jerked and another landed on her nose, then another on her forehead. Raindrops glistened on his black hair as the Wer-Kadis shifted to meet her gaze.
“Gah!” the heavyset man exclaimed below as he wiped water from his balding head. The oak from earlier had not been wrong about the severity of the storm. Both men hunched, flicking their suit jackets up over their heads in a futile effort to protect themselves.
“We can’t pull it in this,” the blond man shouted over the rain. “It’ll damage the core.”
The heavy man grumbled but followed as his companion stomped away.
Only when they were out of sight did the Wer-Kadis move. He came nose to nose with Na’rina. “Never distract me from my prey.” Rain pelted their faces, plastering their hair to the tops of their heads, but Na’rina couldn’t move. This close, she could see the thin green outline of his hazel eyes, and felt a great deal of sympathy for a cornered deer being hunted. Finally, the Wer-Kadis released her from his stare and grip to jump out of the tree. He landed on silent feet where the humans stood moments before.
Na’rina steadied herself against the maple with trembling hands. She hadn’t thought about what might happen if the Wer-Kadis turned on her. I can’t show fear. Too late for that. All of the wer-im could probably smell it wafting from her.
Thank you for stopping by!
P.S. Quaking Soul is available for preorder here on the website, and will be published Nov. 30th!