Excerpt: Wing


Shadow, his unhorse, galloped across the field of blood and snow, into the forest, where rain battled the fire that wanted to devour the trees. Any colder and the rain would have turned to sleet.

The girl trembled in Umbral’s arms. She felt good there, soft and tiny and clinging to him like a child. Her hair, brightly dyed red, held the fragrance of henna and dried flowers. She clutched at his chest as if she trusted him to protect her; though, more likely, she was just afraid that if she didn’t hang on, he would let her drop and break her neck. He sheltered her from the rain as best he could.

As if a few drops of water were the main danger to her.

Deep in the forest, he reached the Deathsworn menhir, large and looming, black and crowned with bones. Here he tapped his horse with his obsidian-beaded hoop, and the shadow beast halted. The forest fire had burnt out here, but it had done its damage. The skeletons of trees around the megalith stuck up from ash, raw black claws.

At the base of the menhir was another stone, gray granite, broad like an elongated egg or gently convex table. Heavy wooden stakes bit deep in the ground on either end of the stone table. A quick glance confirmed that Ash had stored his extra provisions under the lee of the stone, as he’d ordered.

When he slid from the horse with the girl in his arms, she tried to pull away.

“What do you want with me?” she demanded.

“Shhhh.” He stroked her aura, absorbed and stole wisps of her light into his own darkness. The power tasted even sweeter than he had imagined. “Calmly. I promise I won’t hurt you. This won’t take long. Come.”

Suspicious yet lulled, she let him draw her to the stone.

Drawing on the void of his Penumbra, he spun ropes of darkness. He pushed her back onto the rock.

At last her panic overcame her paralysis. He expected this moment of resistance. His victims never gave up easily; they always flailed for freedom at the end, always futilely, like birds with broken wings trying to fly.

He sculpted her aura as smoothly as a potter worked clay. She gasped as he fed pleasure into her aura, and while the sensation incapacitated her, he molded her back to the rock and bound her with the dark snakes of energy, wrists over her head, legs stretched straight crossed at the ankles. The rain pelted her, soaking her clothes, outlining every delicious dip and rise of her body. The arc of the rock lifted her hips and breasts, as if in offering. Her nipples pebbled from the cold. She shivered even as her body buckled, shuddering in involuntary ecstasy.

“Shadow.” Umbral snapped his fingers at his horse.

The dark bundle of equine-shaped energy unfolded and refolded itself into its giant bat form. Shadow flew to the top of the upright menhir and reached its wings forward, sheltering them both from the rain.

He used her sweet power, transmuted, to light a ring of fire around both the menhir and the sacrificial altar. Wet leaves burned like incense. Even now, he could not see her Chromas. But when he sipped her aura, the rush of power made him giddy.

He was supposed to take her to Obsidian Mountain to confirm who she was, but he had no doubt, and he dared not wait. She was more powerful than they suspected. She was too dangerous. She had to be eliminated now, before she realized her own strength.

Umbral drew his obsidian blade.