Pirates, Zombies, and Colonialists, Oh My!

Hello lovelies, and happy Thursday! Today I bring you an excerpt from Warriors, book two of the Shard Trilogy, as well as this super-duper exciting announcement: the release date! Yes indeedy, come March 15th you’ll be able to hold Warriors in your hands…er, on your phone/Kindle/tablet. Get excited!! Ahem. Anyway, here it is.

And remember, you can grab Pirates, book one of the Shard Trilogy, on Amazon Kindle, or read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited. Two weeks is just enough time to finish book one before book two is released, so get yo’self over there, friend!

It was a warm, summer evening in Lagos, Nigeria. Most people were settling down for the night and the only real clamor was aboard two ships that lay in port, filled with slaves who were to be shipped off the following morning. The trade was at its peak and had in fact reached a near-frenzy since talk of abolishing slavery had begin to spring up in England. But for the moment, the business of slavery was quite safe, still flourishing and in high demand.

Outside of Lagos, two bedraggled figures—a mother and her teenage son—hurried away from the port city, the shackles that bound their wrists clinking as they moved. They were sweating and their faces were tear-stained, but they were also determined to get away before their absence was noticed.

Iya,” the young man said to his struggling mother, “we must hurry. If they notice we’re gone—“

“Go then, Siju. I cannot keep up with you. You must save yourself.”

He gripped his mother’s arm, pulling her with him. “No. I will not leave you. We’ve come this far—you can do it. Come on.”

For a while they continued on like this, but after another hour, his mother collapsed onto the sandy ground. Siju sighed deeply, feeling his mother’s weariness but able to carry it better because of his youth. His physical youth, at least—he was only fifteen, but he felt fifty. He knelt beside her and rubbed her back soothingly, deciding that they could afford a short rest. Besides, there was no way that she could take another step in this state.

He looked around them, trying to see if there was a place that they could hide for a while. Perhaps he was overestimating the slavers’ desire and ability to come after them, but then again, he had an idea of how much slaves were worth. He doubted that they would let two such valuable pieces of merchandise get away. At that thought, he clenched his teeth. Merchandise. That’s all we are to them.

They had been running just inside the trees that grew along the shore. He could see through their trunks to the vast ocean, lit up by the moon and stars like a rippling galaxy. There would be no hiding there, obviously. On his left were the trees, which grew thicker and thicker further away from the shore. He supposed that they could go in among the trees to hide, but that would only be temporary, and they would leave an easy-to-follow trail of trampled undergrowth behind them. No, they would simply have to keep going.

Iya,” he said softly, stroking his mother’s hair, “we need to go. We can rest again a little further along.”

“Go without me, Siju,” she said again, her voice ragged. “I got you out, and that’s all I wanted to do. You can be free.”

“Stop saying that,” he said firmly. “Either we both get away, or we both get caught. I’m not leaving you. I—“ he broke off as a sudden splashing sound reached his ears, and his head snapped toward the ocean, instantly alert.

Out of the waters, like some kind of mystical apparition, came a man, stumbling along and fighting against the current. Siju watched as the man’s shoulders emerged, then his waist, then his knees. A foul stench came with him, like a body that has been without life for three or four days, and the man looked bloated and pale, like a corpse. Siju’s breath caught in his throat and he could taste bile, a reaction to the repulsive odor.

His mother, too, was staring at the thing, her eyes wide and terrified. “A fumbi,” she said breathlessly, so quiet that Siju could barely hear her. “An undead spirit. Loa help us. Siju, get away from here, now.” Her voice was frantic and high-pitched, so unlike the calm, soothing voice he knew.

Siju’s thoughts scrambled around his brain, trying to order themselves. Was this really an undead man? It certainly looked that way, and he supposed his mother, a Vodun mambo, would know. The bloated, chalky-skinned creature continued to walk towards them, strange, gurgling sounds coming from its throat. It seemed to be trying to talk to them, but all that came out was slurred gibberish, marred by seawater. Siju’s horror nearly overcame both him and his familial protectiveness, and it was all he could do not to bolt in the opposite direction, with or without his mother.

But he refused to leave her. Accessing strength he never knew he had, he dragged his mother to her feet and pulled her along with him through the underbrush, trying to put as much distance between them and the fumbi as possible. He blundered on through the thinner layer of trees, pushing branches out of the way and hoping against hope that they weren’t leaving too much of a trail, though he knew a blind man could follow the clues they were leaving. But he had to try, for his mother’s sake and for his own, and so her pushed on.

It seemed like an eternity passed before the sun finally rose. Both Siju and his mother were long past exhaustion, and they trembled as they staggered along, sweat dripping from their bodies as though they’d been in the water. Every now and then, Siju glanced behind them, making sure that the fumbi was not following them.

He could not see the creature any longer, but he also couldn’t relax about it. He had been a private skeptic of Vodun until now, despite his mother’s firm belief in it, but he could not shake the terror he’d felt upon seeing the undead spirit—nor could he get the thing’s stench out of his nose. It was a pure abomination of nature that such a thing was allowed to walk the earth.

But he slowly became aware of other sounds—harsh, animalistic sounds that made his mouth go even drier than it already was and that made his heart race. Dogs. They’re coming for us, and they have dogs. Siju wiped sweat from his forehead and looked down at his mother. She was breathing heavily and her eyes were closed, and her whole body was shaking.

This is it, Siju realized with the sudden calm that comes with accepting one’s fate. We can go no further. They’ll find us. No one can escape dogs. Trembling, he fell to his knees in the cool, white sand. If he had it in him, he might have wept, but as it was he could only stare numbly in the direction of the sound of dogs barking and men shouting.

What would happen to him and his mother now? He’d heard stories of escaped slaves being whipped to within an inch of their lives, or even being beheaded on the spot when they were found. At best they would be dragged back to the ships and then taken to some faraway land, forced to work like animals beneath the hot sun.

He shuddered and laid himself protectively over his mother’s shaking body, gritting his teeth. They would have to kill him before they could get to her. Siju had promised his father Bandele when he was dying three years ago that he would look after her, and he was determined to keep that promise. Let them come, he thought. I’ll rip them to shreds with my bare hands if I have to.

***If you enjoyed the excerpt, grab Pirates now so you’ll be all ready when Warriors comes out on March 15th!

Refugees

An excerpt from Pirates, available on Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Kindle! Thank you all for your support, you have been absolutely incredible.
xxx
-Veronique

At the very top of the tallest guard tower in the Crystal City, surveying the vast lands that lay about the protected realm, stood a woman with raven black hair and skin as smooth and white as ivory. Small black jewels tipped two little fangs that reached slightly over her bottom lip, and a smooth black staff crowned with a mist-enveloped copper orb was in her right hand. Her dark robes, deep turquoise and amber, were in sharp contrast to the brightness of the city and its people.

In ages past, fear had surrounded her and her people, the Darkdwellers—or, as they had once been known, the Dragons, now ill and forced to dwell in human form. Since recent events, however, everyone knew Chiasa for who she really was: the immortal Dragon Queen, the leader of the purest race ever to have lived in Kirael.

And not only that, but she had proved over and over again her strength in battle, her bravery, and above all, her loyalty. The people of the Crystal City and of all the free kingdoms loved their own kings, but they loved and trusted her, too.

Now she stood and watched the main gate far down below, open wide and letting in a nearly constant trickle of all manner of people. Refugees. Most had come from far and wide, and some—more disturbingly—had come from not so very far at all.

Her eyes, deep aqua with flecks of gold and emerald, the only part of her once fair appearance that still remained, looked on with foreboding and sadness as more and more people entered the city. They carried small bundles, hurriedly packed, telling of what sort of attack had driven them from their homes.

Then a fragile, delicate looking figure sitting tall and straight on a great black steed caught her eye, riding at the head of some two hundred people, all on horseback, and a great many unsaddled horses who followed without leads or bridles.

At the sight of Adyah and her people, a stab of pain went through Chiasa’s heart. She had felt the battle in her spirit and had known that many of them had died, but to see them riding to the Crystal City under such a clear banner of defeat, when they had for thousands of years been nearly impossible to reach in their home in the mountains, brought it home to her that the evil they all faced was far greater than anything they had faced before.

“My lady,” said the Tower Captain behind her.

She turned to face him. “What is it?”

“Where will we tell the people to go? So many have come over the last few days that we have little room left to spare. Captain Eldaroth has not returned yet and we are not sure what to do.”

She looked back down at the river of refugees. “Have whoever is able take them into their homes. And open the palace to them as well—the King would gladly have done so, were he at home, and there are hundreds of empty chambers.”

“And what of the horses?”

Despite the gravity of the situation, Chiasa smiled a little. “Leave the horses and their people to Lady Adyah. They will not abide staying within the city walls, I am sure. They are far too wild for that.”

“Yes, my lady,” he said, bowing.

Not long after, Chiasa walked into the great throne room in the palace. It had been missing its King for a long time now, but the great crystal throne had not been empty. She, Adyah, and Adyah’s sister, Cahmeelle, had been taking turns ruling in his stead while he was off on his important mission. It was a bright room at the top of the shining spire that was the palace.

The walls were great glass windows, clear but strong as steel, reinforced with ancient spells, and from here Chiasa could see the whole city and the Barrier Plains all around it.
She found Adyah sitting on the edge of the long glass table which was used for councils and diplomatic meetings. There was a heavy air about her and she stared out at nothing in particular, watching the clouds go by, her face set in a hard, anguished expression.

Chiasa said nothing but simply went to sit beside her, waiting.

“It’s all gone,” Adyah said finally, in a broken voice which Chiasa had never heard from her before. “Everything is gone. My mountains—“ she broke off and swallowed her tears.
There was nothing else to say, or else too much, and so they sat in silence staring at the blue sky outside, as yet untouched by the shadow that threatened everything they held dear.