I am feeling sad that the story is almost coming to an end. While I am still working on Chapter 10, I think the story itself should end sometime by Chapter 12. In my head at least, there is already a sequel at works and it involves 4 interesting characters - all of whom are very different from each other. In this short teaser, I will be introducing a new character and she will be paired with Drake - a complete clash of personality and status. Now, the other pairing is between Zahara and a new character who will be introduced in mention only in Chapter 10.
Someone recent wrote to me asking me to pair a nonhuman female character with a human male - and while I'm trying to see how I can slot this in the grand scheme of things, I think my best compromise so far is the Drake-Eulalie coupling. He is almost as layman as it gets so we'll see. :)
Meanwhile, here is a short excerpt from Chapter 9. Don't think I'll post it up too soon as I have yet to proof read it!
Alduin had joined him two days after, as they journeyed southwards along the coast from the Western tip. By the end of the week, Etienne had led the Nobles to the mouth of the long mountain pass.
What he thought was initially human blood turned out to be hyenas’. Getting off his dragon, he ordered the squadron to rest, keeping alert and within formation while he scouted.
So much death here…
Contrary to human’s belief that Vampires were soulless beings; his race were in fact the most sensitive to death -being able to sense it even from a distance. That was how he knew his father had died - the sudden great change in balance of the life forces around him.
But beyond that, Purebloods in particular had the uncanny ability to see the scale of one’s mortality; pinpoint the exact moment in a person’s life to determine the years lived and the years left.
It had taken a lot of self-control not to look at Rose with this ability. Her coming into his life had been like a monsoon after a long, harsh drought, making him pay attention to things he used to find useless and boring -flowers, music, laughter… love. How could someone so young and tiny have learnt the compassion and patience that he, after all the time spent in this world, had not?
For that alone, he would rather not know when she would take her last breath…
Pushing thoughts of Rose to the corner of his mind, Etienne continued studying the ground, reaching down to rub his fingers over the crimson-soaked soil. Whatever carnage that had taken place was cleared out quickly and efficiently. Hyenas were not known to clean up after a kill –then who?
Following his sense of smell, Etienne tracked down what appeared to be the site of a struggle between a hyena and a human –or perhaps not. Someone had forgotten to wipe clean the prints here.
Unable to retract their claws, hyenas often left deep grooved markings but here, claw marks, padded footprints and human prints trampled each other.
Another Changeling then.
Moving back towards his Nobles, Etienne mounted Alduin; his command whispered at a low frequency only meant for their ears.
“Look up as you pass but not a sound.”
The horses moved silently in the darkness, their eyes closed by flaps. It was for the best, seeing that some of the younger Nobles were panicking soundlessly at the sight of hyena Changelings –in their various transformative forms –skewered through the branches of the trees high above.
It continued as such deeper into the mountains as they went until finally the stench of hyenas cleared as they reached a small water hole. This had to be done recently. By the looks of it, a trench had been dug deep enough to drown whoever tried to pass.
Etienne was almost tempted to pin it on pumas but a more familiar –and equally revolting –scent caught his attention.
The ice blue of their eyes peered down on him; a cluster of wolves hanging by the branches. Seeing that they made no move to attack, Etienne continued, stopping only when the water lapped at Alduin’s feet.
“It would be a shame to leave the horses my Lord,” said Keiko, coming up from behind. “And… I think these wolves are simply waiting to watch us drown.”
Indeed. Etienne looked up to see one particular wolf strutting on a branch; her sleek body at attention as though anticipating a show. Well, he’ll give her one then.
Drawing his seven-branched sword, Etienne leaped off his dragon, flying straight at the rocky edges of the mountains; sword slashing down against the hard surfaces.
At first nothing happened –but then the mountains started to grumble; the ground shaking as a gigantic portion of the slopes broke off and crashed down, shattering as it hit the middle of the water hole.
Landing amongst the rubble, Etienne brought his gaze up to the trees – golden eyes meeting blue.
He recognised this one in particular.
“Aren’t you so far from home, princess?” It was a strange hierarchy these wolves. All of Ulrich’s concubines were addressed as Lady while his own heirs addressed as prince and princess, though the identities of their mothers were a mystery. There was never a Queen of the East.
The wolf looked at him arrogantly, leaping off the branch as she shifted mid-air, her white pelt melting away to pale blonde hair, long and wavy as they cleverly covered up the bronzed flesh of her breasts.
“Lord Etienne.” She bowed slightly; her actions serving as a stand down for all the other wolves prowling on the trees.
“Eulalie.” He noted how some had leaped off to stand protectively close behind their princess. Again, another Changeling quirk. Purebloods would scoff at the thought of a lesser trying to protect them.
“I must say that was quite… impressive, my Lord,” she tilted her head to the rocky path he had created. “Though now you’ve completely ruined the trap.”
Etienne frowned at her words. “I thought the message you left behind was quite clear.” There was no mistaking the unspoken threat from the hyena massacre on display.
She didn’t take the bait.
“If you’re thinking of heading up to An, forget it. There is nothing left but death and decay.” The anger was ripe in her voice.
“Wolves?” When she nodded, he was genuinely surprised. Wolf Changelings rarely ventured this far south from the comfort of the central mountains. What more, to live so close to a human village. “I am tracking the hyenas. They went this way.”
Eulalie tilted her head back and howled a laugh. “Hyenas aren’t clever enough to dig through the mountains! The only way out of An is through here and I promise you, none managed to come out alive this way.”
No, there was one more way –by sea. It was a longer and more dangerous route, seeing that the rocks, extending from the mountain faults made the seas treacherous. But a very skilled navigator could easily circumvent the obstacle.
“So then where are your kin now if there is nothing at the end of this pass?”
Eyes of blue hardened as Eulalie looked towards the empty darkness. “Gone.”
Changelings! Instead of hunting down the scent, it was so like them to set traps – a waste of time. Fools!
“Do as you please.” Etienne turned to Keiko and motioned for the Nobles to follow suit. The sooner they tracked down the migrating hyenas, the faster he would be able to return to Rose.