Monday, October 20, 2014

The Conjuring of SAURIMONDE II

SAURIMONDE II is available now at Amazon.

The Conjuring of SAURIMONDE II

While I was visiting Los Angeles last November Melissa and I started to bounce some ideas back and forth for the structure of SAURIMONDE II. It was a bit of a tricky beast because we knew certain things which we wanted to happen but there was no way to give Saurimonde the typical ass-kicking, dominant female character arc that most stories call for nowadays. Having become newly human after being demonic, and having built up a body count, Saurimonde wasn't ready to come into her own power yet. So instead for most of the story she is a victim of circumstance - and they are pretty darn mean. It is only when she has lost everything and is deep within the long dark night of the soul that she finally gains her power and becomes proactive. It's a backwards plot structure, and a risky venture, but that's the way the story wanted to be told. What can one do but take a chance? So we decided on the night of the Hunter's Moon to cast a spell to aid us with the creativity and success of SAURIMONDE II using a little good old fashioned sigil magic.

Photo by Marnie Shelton-Klein
Photo by Marnie Shelton-Klein
In the middle of March I was lucky enough to find myself living in a 50 room 500 hundred-year-old chateau in Chalabre in the south of France called the Yobaba Lounge. Feeling like I had been dropped straight into a Gothic romance I rolled up my writing sleeves and got down to work. I cannot rave enough about how conducive Yobaba Lounge (chateau) was to the creative process. Although I must confess, the house was so completely magical that I felt like I should have spent some of my time wearing gauzy gowns and slowly wandering down the long hallways with a candelabra like one of the women in Jean Rollin's 'Requiem for a Vampire'. It was like living in a real life version of 'Gormenghast' along with a huge walled garden and a menagerie of exotic cats (I wrote some more about the house in my blog ). In the mornings I would get up and quietly pad down the immense wooden stairwell and over Persian rugs and Romanesque tiled floors to make fresh pressed coffee. Then I would grab my pen and notebook and greet the morning sun out in the garden amongst the wild lavender and sage with the cats while I sketched out the next scene. This is a fairly normal way of working for me and I don't just write on the page, I scribble all over it and make small drawings, adding words here and there in the margins. Once I had all the ideas in place I would either take a walk up to the castle, or to one of my favorite spots in the woods, or I would go and have a sandalwood scented bubble bath in a huge antique claw-footed tub to let these ideas collate. After lunch I would make a pot of Earl Grey tea and get down to business and get as much of the chapter down as possible. I would finish around 8:00 pm and send it off to Melissa who was just getting her day started in Los Angeles. She would then work on the material during her day and add what she wanted or delete what she felt didn't work and send me notes as well. This was a perfect system and we were able to work very quickly this way. By the beginning of May we were more than 3/4th's through the story and the finish line was in sight.

But then life went haywire like it does and the best laid plans went quickly South. We won't go into particulars here about what went wrong and only say the human heart can be foolish and the wise ones are right when they say love is blind. But it is what it is and in the middle of that mess and trauma, Melissa and I managed to get the damn thing finished only not in the timely manner we had anticipated. I was more than ready for it to be over with because I was exhausted from holding the Saurimonde universe inside my brain and I know Melissa felt exactly the same way.

But just because you are done, doesn't mean you are really done. There's editing. Then reading aloud. And more editing. Then more reading aloud. You worry and fret and chop some more sentences down, and then rearrange the furniture a bit. It's like running a marathon that feels like it will never end. Then one day suddenly that's it - you're done. You take a deep breath, push the button, and the damn thing is born. Let me tell you that is the scariest moment of all because it's the point of no return. So now our latest venture is out in the world and we will be hitting the promotional trail starting tonight. Here's the info if you would like to join us on Facebook (and we hope that you do!):

Monday, October 20 at 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm EDT, Melissa and I will be making our first stop on our promotional tour of SAURIMONDE II at a Ragnarok Publications event here:
Join us and many other authors for book giveaways and more!
Here's more info on the event:

Join Ragnarok and their authors, including Kenny Soward, Tara Cardinal, Alex Bledsoe. Mercedes Murdock Yardley and more as they celebrate their new books! Giveaways! Virtual food and drinks! GNOMES!

And here's some info on Ragnarok:
DARK GENRE FICTION. Dark Fantasy | Urban Fantasy | Speculative Fiction | Supernatural Horror | | 'RAGNAROK. Books that ROK!'
Come for Dark Genre Fiction, stay for the Gnomes!

Photo by Marnie Shelton-Klein
And as we come into the turning of the season's Melissa is hard at work on her next book which is a fabulous sci-fi tale entitled, 'XODUS'. For myself, I am just starting on my first attempt at historical fiction which will of course contain old world magic and erotic overtones. I don't have a title yet, but it will come as so many plans and changes are in the wind.
One last thing. We have a favor to ask you. If you read SAURIMONDE II and enjoy our twisted tale then could you please leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads? These reviews make all the difference in the world to independent authors and it doesn't have to be more than a couple of lines. Thanks in advance to those who do so!

May your darkest dreams and wishes come true,
Scarlett & Melissa

Friday, April 4, 2014

Chapter Two from the upcoming Saurimonde sequel!!

         Saurimonde jerked the cloak back into place after it had slipped over one shoulder. Her dress was disintegrating before her eyes and Elazki's frock she had borrowed barely fell below her knees. Ahead of her was the garden full of hollyhocks and she could hear the thrum of the bees as the day began to warm. She skirted the edge as she didn't want to look too closely. This was something else she would have to sort out and there were so many messes and mistakes, she didn't know where to begin. She prayed no one would see her arriving back to the manor house. She must look like a beggar woman and prying eyes and wagging tongues were the last thing she needed right now.
         There had been no way to cover her feet so she had to pick her path carefully. It was slow going, but the stables were within shouting distance. She knew this place so well. This had been her home. It still was her home, but it felt unfamiliar, like it was part of a life lived long ago.
         She tiptoed quietly into the stables and listened carefully. All she heard was the restless shuffling of the horses waiting for their morning feed. Good, she thought, luck was with her. The stables were cool and damp and she could barely see in the tack room as she fumbled slightly, but she knew where Gilles' saddle and bridle were as they sat in perfect condition. He'd always insisted on the best and he'd always gotten his way. Well, almost always. She wasn't sorry she'd killed Gilles, as far as he was concerned she felt nothing at all, except the overwhelming need to erase all trace of his existence. It wasn't rational, she knew this, it was reaction to all the events which had befallen her. All because of Gilles and his need to destroy everything around him. At least he couldn't hurt anyone any more.
         Still cursing about her lack of footwear, she saddled up Gilles' black gelding. The poor beast had been so beaten into submission, he barely moved a muscle as she tightened the girth. Hopefully his next owner would be kinder. She led him out the back, tied the reins in a loose knot and hooked them through one of the buckles in the front of the saddle so he couldn't get tangled in them. Then she let him go. He stood still for a moment unsure what to do so she grabbed the nearest whip and gave him a harsh whack across the hocks. It was all the motivation he needed as he took off for the trees. She felt a little bad about it, but desperate measures called for desperate means. If her luck continued then someone would find the horse sans rider in a few hours. Then there would be a search party to go look for their master, thinking he had fallen off. After they didn't find him the rumors would start about the men in the forest who had been attacking people for money. Maybe they had been stupid enough to abduct Gilles. Maybe they'd gotten in a lucky punch or stab wound. Maybe Gilles was dead... It could all work so perfectly, she thought. She froze as she heard someone whistling a tune not so far away. Damn, and double damn, she inwardly swore.
         She backtracked a little to give herself some time and to make it look like she was coming in from a morning stroll. She smoothed down her hair and put on her most regal air. And then she strode forward to face the inevitable full of false confidence.
         A boy of about ten with carrot colored hair and a smattering of freckles across his nose was putting together the meat for the pack of mastiffs Gilles had bred and raised as his hunting dogs. She didn't recognize the child and at closer inspection with the red hair she wondered if he was Gilles' offspring as well. The man had certainly been busy populating the countryside. Thank the goddess he had never gotten her pregnant. It wasn't that she didn't love children, but her skin crawled at the thought of it. Then she noticed Lucifer, her late husband's pride and joy, lying sulkily in a corner away from the rest of his pack who were busy making a racket as they waited impatiently for their breakfast. His sullen, golden eyes caught hers as if conveying some hidden message. An older man walked up to the boy and grabbed the haunches of fresh kill from him. His pinched face was redder than his hair and his hands shook a little. She knew who he was, one of Gilles' lackeys, and by the look of it, more than a little hungover. She decided to make the first move to catch him off guard.
         “Why is Lucifer separated from the other dogs?” Her voice rang out sharp as a blade. Even she was taken aback by the harshness of it. 
         The man jumped as if he'd seen a ghost. “Madame...” He stuttered, “No one told me you were back. How...?”
         “I came back early this morning,” she answered in a haughty manner. “You haven't answered my question. Why is Lucifer separated from the others?” She could see him sizing up her unkempt attire so she stared him straight in the eye, until his gaze hit the ground.
         “The master told me to... I...”
         She didn't let him finish. “Put him back.”
         “But the master... The dog savaged him – and he...” He stopped.
         “Gilles is not here. I saw him this morning as I was arriving.” She continued to lie smoothly. “He went to fetch his niece. Seems she's run away and gotten herself into some trouble. I don't have to tell you that Gilles would want you to keep this quiet.” She arched an eyebrow.
         “No surprise there, madame. A bit of a wildcat she is. You don't have to worry about us.” He pointed to his son who was busy taunting an insect with a stick. “We won't say nothing to no one.”
         Yeah, right, she thought as she gave him a tight smile. “Good. Then do as I say and put Lucifer back. I'll deal with Gilles.” She gave a little imperial wave towards the pens as she started up the drive towards the house.
         “Yes, madame...” he called out after her.
         She walked as calmly as possible, but inside she was quaking. What was wrong with her? She'd never taken that kind of tone with the servants before. She had spent most of her life here trying to be invisible. All of the hired help were Gilles bought and sold. But Gilles was gone and he was never coming back. For a moment she felt like skipping. She felt like a warm wind after the rain. She felt... That would never do. First she had to play distraught wife and then, hopefully, grieving widow. She giggled softly to herself. It was quite mad, but things were going to be very different.
         She made it up the backstairs and to her room unseen by any of the house staff. She desperately needed a bath, but that would mean asking one of the servants and she wanted to delay the inevitable a little longer. Her sanctuary looked untouched as she basked in its heavy wood and jewel tones, but something was missing. She looked around as she tried to figure out what. Her carved, oval mirror was missing. Why that of all things? She wondered. It was not exactly an easy piece to move. Maybe Gilles smashed it, she thought, as she poked into one of the upright cabinets finding nothing. Some of her clothes were gone, but she had expected that.
         As she looked around, she noticed the door on the far side was slightly ajar. Possibly someone had put her mirror in the other room? But that room was never used for anything other than the guests they'd never had. She opened the door cautiously and sucked in her breath - every shade of pink imaginable was vomited all over. It was a sickly monstrosity mixed with the definite odor of dog shit. She felt faintly nauseous as she took it in. This must have been Mariel's room, she thought as somewhere at the back of her mind the briefest flash of a salmon colored dress appeared. Why had Gilles let her do such a thing? Tentatively, she walked across the carpet spotting her mirror propped up by the bed. Had Gilles given it to his niece? she wondered. It certainly didn't fit in this confectioner's nightmare. Then she noticed the piles of frilly expensive lingerie sitting on the bed. Had Gilles given her those as well? It seemed so tacky. The girl could not have been barely more than a child. Spying a slip of paper that was sticking out of the wall, she walked across to take a closer look. She tugged at it and noticed the perfect round peep hole. Her late husband had been a man of many devious appetites and peeping was high on the list of them. She shouldn't be surprised, but Mariel was his niece – a close blood relative. She peered at the slip of paper. It was a receipt for the lingerie and the amount paid was staggering. Gilles had indeed signed for it. Pervert, she thought as she threw it down in disgust.
         She stared at the mirror, hands on hips. It would be heavy to move, but she had to take it back. Lifting it up, she grimaced as she heard what was left of her frayed dress rip down the side. That was definitely the end of it. The mirror was heavier than she had guessed as she awkwardly rolled it across the carpet and maneuvered it through the door. It was louder too. Great. No doubt one of the servants would be up soon to investigate, she thought. Her dress ripped further with every effort until there was much left covering her. Breathing heavily, she managed to lift and edge the mirror back into place just over the low-seated vanity. She stared at her reflection. She was a mess. How long had it been since she sat there examining the bruises Gilles had left around her throat? she asked herself. The memory had faded like all bad memories did with her and she wanted to hold onto that one. She wanted to remember that day clearly, and exactly how beaten down and afraid she had felt. Picking up the golden comb she struggled with the tangled mess of her hair until it shone like the sun and fell smoothly down her back in waves. She was still covered with grit, but it was a start. She smiled at her reflection. One step at a time and things would get better. She would deal with the servants. Then, she would deal with Sordel. And after that she couldn't plan any further. But first, she sat on the edge of her bed and peeled off the remnants of her frock. She was going to close her eyes for a few minutes to gather back her strength. She grabbed the pillow nearest to her, pulling it close and hugging it like as person as she snuggled into the blankets. Then, blessed nothingness.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Third chapter of the upcoming Saurimonde sequel!

         Saurimonde's heart pounded as she turned another corner. The forest was like a maze and crashing sounds were coming closer. She sprinted towards what looked to be a clearing. As she entered, a human-sized raven unfolded its enormous wings. “Not this way,” it croaked at her. She backed away, stumbled, and then took off again. The branches whipped at her face and hair. All around she could hear voices chanting; the words were indistinct, but grew to a fever pitch. Out of the corner of her eye she caught glimpses of fires, and figures which moved around them. What could she do? The forest was tightening its grip on her and there was nowhere left to go. The crashing was coming closer. He was coming closer. The sound of her heart beat so loud now it throbbed in her ears.
         Bang. Bang. Bang. She opened her eyes, caught in the void between waking and sleep. Bang, bang, bang. Her heart still pounded and she was slightly sweaty, but that noise was not a dream. Groggily she looked towards the door.
         “Madame... Madame... Are you in there?”
         “Wait a minute.” she answered more to herself than anyone else. Slowly she lifted herself out of the bed. Her muscles ached in protest and her feet complained the minute she touched the floor.
         “Madame...?” The voice was more insistent.
         “Coming.” She wrapped a sheet haphazardly around herself, still too dazed to dress. As she walked over the bare floor it felt like she was walking over a bed of nails. She opened the door a crack as a moon-faced woman stared at her anxiously.
         “I'm so sorry to bother you. I know you just arrived home from nursing your sick relative and must be very tired, but there's a lady waiting for you downstairs. She says she must see you right away.” Saurimonde tried to process this as she stared at the woman's rounded face. Sick relative? Where had that come from? She wondered. Sweet goddess, the word got around fast that she was back. She couldn't have been asleep for very long. She certainly didn't feel rested. In fact she felt more tired than she had thought possible. “Did she give you her name?” she asked as she wondered if it could be Elazki. But that wasn't possible - was it?
         “It's Loreley, madame. The master's sister. She's come to see her daughter.”
         Oh this was bad, Saurimonde thought. She despised Gilles' sister on the best of days and her timing couldn't have been worse.
         “Tell her I'll be right down.”
         The woman gave a clumsy sort of curtsy and said, “Yes, madame.” Then she turned and fled back down the corridor.
         Saurimonde shut the door and then rubbed her eyes, yawning loudly. She stretched letting the sheet fall to the floor. Gingerly she walked over to the standing bureau and grabbed a dress. Any one would do just as long as it covered her. She slipped it on, luxuriating for a moment in the soft feel of the fabric and the way it hugged her skin. It was a good choice.
         There was no time for a bath, or to splash her face, so she did what she could in front of the mirror. Most of the dirt had wiped easily away and the low cut moss colored dress set off her tawny skin. She still looked haggard around the eyes. Gathering up her long hair, she fastened it haphazardly with a couple of combs, pulling out wisps here and there. It wasn't glamorous, but it was good enough. In her mind she rehearsed various different scenarios and her responses to them as she put on the last minute touches. The problem was she didn't know Loreley very well as she and Gilles had a complicated relationship and they rarely could stand to be in the same room together. She was haughty and ostentatious from what Saurimonde remembered, and beautiful in a coldly remote sort of way, but that was many years ago and time could be unkind. She'd never even met her niece. Well, not in this form anyway. Feeling a sudden pang of regret, she quickly pushed it aside. She didn't want to remember. Not now at least.
         Sighing heavily, she stared at her feet. There was no way she could get away with going barefoot. There had to be slippers somewhere. She found a pair hiding under the bed. The color wasn't right, but she didn't care as she couldn't keep Lorelei waiting much longer without some sort of scene happening. Deep breaths, deep breaths, she told herself If she could just keep her thoughts focused it would be okay.
         Loreley looked around the cold, masculine room with its heavy tapestries and hunting trophies on the wall. Even though the curtains were drawn, hardly any light penetrated its depths. Her companion was busy running his hands over a suit of armor that stood in the corner.
         “This looks real.” He said, a look of awe in his dark almond eyes..
         “Yes, dear. It's real. It's been in the family for hundreds of years and technically it should be mine.” She didn't bother adding it was because she was the eldest sibling. He didn't need to know that. She ran a hand across her perfect, ginger-colored chignon. It was her trademark hairstyle, only now it had a few streaks of gray in the front. Poor Guihelm, she thought, as she stared at him. Not the brightest spark, but he was handsome to look at. If only he didn't fancy himself a poet. Not that there was anything wrong with poetry, but his was just so insipid and mechanical. The flowery nothings he espoused with an irritating air of faked romanticism. How the simpletons must have swooned at his feet wherever it was he came from. Some remote backwater in the mountains if she remembered correctly.
         “What do you think could be taking them so long?” he asked.
         “How can I know? It's the middle of the day,” she answered as if it were obvious. “My brother is a very busy man with a lot of important duties.”
         Saurimonde stood silently in the doorway. “Indeed, your brother is a very busy man and I'm so sorry that he isn't here right now.”
         They turned in unison at the sound of her voice. “I'm sorry to have kept you waiting,” she continued, “but I was very tired from a long journey last night... and well.” She gave them a little smile, tilting her head like a coquette. “I confess, I over slept.”
         Loreley glanced at her companion as his eyes roamed up and down the voluptuous body of her sister-in-law. The older woman plastered on a smile. “Saurimonde, my dear. How lovely to see you.” She almost kissed her sister-in-law on the cheek. Then she stood back, glancing a critical eye over her. “As lovely as always. Just like one of your paintings. But yes, you do look a little worse for the wear. It must have been a very difficult road.” The was a subtle emphasis on the last three words. “And this is my traveling companion, Guihelm. He's a poet. You do know how I love to patronize the arts.”
         Is there anything you don't patronize? Saurimonde thought to herself. Loreley's ingenue was indeed handsome. He was tall with dark, shoulder length hair, matching eyes, and high flat cheekbones and he had a foreign look which lent him an air of exoticism.
         “My dame,” he dropped to one knee as he kissed her hand with great ceremony. Never once did he take his eyes off of her.
         Loreley smiled harder to keep from rolling her eyes. She'd seen this same act everywhere they went. She didn't know why she didn't dump this dancing monkey at the circus where he belonged. There was no future with him. It was just that with Mariel here and her husband gone, she'd gotten a little lonely and Guilhelm provided a needed distraction. He wasn't smart enough to realize she was out of money, though. No one knew except her little girl and she'd come to see if Mariel was keeping up her end of the bargain in securing their future.
         “So where is my beloved brother? And not to mention my daughter,” asked Loreley expectantly as she tilted her head mimicking Saurimonde's earlier expression.
         “Please have a seat.” Saurimonde motioned graciously at a couple of over-stuffed leather chairs. “That's what I wanted to talk to you about.” Saurimonde sat down opposite to Lorelei. She leaned forward, placed both hands on her chin and said, “Mariel has gotten herself into a little trouble and Gilles had to go and fetch her.” Her eyes dropped and her lashes fluttered. “Well, actually he has to find her first.”
         “Trouble? Find her?” Loreley's voice raised a couple of octaves. “What kind of trouble?” she demanded. “Is she all right?”
         “She's fine.” Saurimonde reassured her. “It's just, you know how girls at her age are. I don't know how to tell you this... but she's run away with a boy.”
         “What?!”the older woman screeched. “Well, I never...” She glanced over at her companion who raised his eyebrows, not knowing how to react.
         “I know. Gilles will handle it. Don't worry,” Saurimonde responded.
         Two bright spots appeared on Loreley's cheeks as her eyes quickly darted back and forth. Damn that girl, she thought, I will hide her black and blue. But at least Gilles was going to save her. It would give him the chance to play hero and he would like that. And Mariel would be forced to behave. “I'm certain he will.” She said stiffly. “Well, we'll just have to wait for them then, won't we? I'm sure this wouldn't be a problem.”
         Saurimonde cursed inwardly, but her expression never wavered. “Of course,” she heard herself say as if from far away, “it would be no problem at all.”
         “Madame,” said the moon-faced servant nervously as she hovered at the door. “You have another visitor. I tried to tell him you were busy”
         Old Thome didn't wait for an introduction as he ducked his burly frame beneath the doorway. His face was tanned from the sun and he smelled of fresh earth and his long, graying beard made his look like a giant billy goat. “Saurimonde, so good to see you back. I'm...” He stopped as he noticed the others. His blue eyes widened as he took in the older woman. “Loreley?”
         She shifted in her seat and patted her hair before she answered, “Hello, Thome.”
         His weathered face grew softer as he gazed at her. “It's been almost 20 years.”
         “It hasn't been that long. Besides, I was just a child the last time I saw you.” She laughed nervously. “A mere child.”
         “You were?” Old Thome questioned, his confusion evident in his voice.
         “Of course I was.” Loreley twittered again. She reached over and possessively stroked Guilhelm's hand and said to him. “Thome was like an older brother to me when I grew up here.”
         “Older brother. But we were...”
         She cut him off. “How is your dear family?”
         His expression darkened. “Bad. Very bad. My oldest boy has gone missing for a few days now and there hasn't been any sign of him. Gilles said he might have run off with a sweetheart.”
         Loreley gasped, clasping one hand theatrically to her throat as she started to quickly fan herself with the other. Then she leaned her head on Guilhelm's shoulder as if she needed corporeal support to hold herself up.
         Exhausted as she was, Saurimonde saw the opportunity and she took it. “Oh Thome,” she said, “Loreley's daughter has gone missing too, and Gilles said the exact same thing. He's gone looking for her. Do you suppose...?” She let the question hang.
         Old Thome shook his big head while frowning. “I saw Master Gilles the other night. He was the one who told me my boy had found a girl, but he didn't say anything about his niece.” His bearish brows knitted together and he asked, “When did she arrive?”
         Outside there was the clatter of hooves on the cobblestones and a man's voice could be heard shouting. Loreley got up quickly. “Hopefully that's Gilles, and we'll get this mess straightened out.” Guilhelm followed her. Old Thome and Saurimonde stood behind them as they peered out the window into the courtyard below. Gilles' normally docile gelding was making a fuss as Sordel, stripped to the waist, tried to quiet him down. He held the reins with both hands and stood his ground as the horse kicked out over and over again, scrambling on the uneven footing. Sordel was sweating and his lithe muscles gleamed in the sunlight.
         No, no, no, thought Saurimonde, this is a mess. But there was no way she could explain the truth. How could she tell them she'd killed their children? That she hadn't meant to because it hadn't really been her and she had been a monster. Something unnatural and they could still be in terrible danger. There was a chance they wouldn't believe her. They might think her insane. She'd be branded a murderess even if there was no proof. Her thoughts raced as she began to panic. It was time to end this charade before it went any further. She didn't know why she had thought she could pull it off. It was survival instinct and, really, she hadn't known what else to do.
         Noticing her distress, Old Thome gently placed a hand on her shoulder. “Don't worry. It's just Sordel. Maybe he'll have some news.”
         She flinched under his touch. “I know, but...” She swallowed her confession. She couldn't tell them. “That's Gilles' horse and I don't see any sign of him.” The hollow words echoed in her ears as she hung her head in shame. “I don't deserve this.” She looked up at them with tears in her eyes.
         Loreley stood glaring at her. “What is the matter with you? This is no time for tears. You don't see us crying do you? We must go and see what has happened right now!” With an authoritative flounce, she grabbed Guilhelm and elbowed her way past Thome and Saurimonde. She stopped at the door and turned. “Well, are you coming? Let's go.”
         Saurimonde took a half step forward as Thome hovered protectively beside her. She felt sick and ashamed and she wasn't sure she could handle any more.
         “Don't worry about Loreley,” Thome said quietly.”Her bark is much worse than her bite. And a very sweet bite she has. Believe me, I know.” Then he gave her a knowing wink and she felt herself smiling back at him. That she hadn't expected at all.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Saurmimonde II - the first chapter

Saurimonde II - The First Chapter

          Saurimonde placed the journal down as the words swam in front of her eyes, while she tried to wrap herself around the shock of what she read. She already felt intrusive enough reading someone else's diary. She reached forward touching the hem of her damp powder blue dress hanging over the edge of the fire. There wasn't much left of it, only wisps of cotton and lace still tacked together. It wouldn't last through another wearing. Shivering, she wrapped the blanket a little tighter around herself against the bite of the morning air. She wasn't exactly cold, but the night's events had chilled her to the bone. She was sore from head to toe and her muscles protested every little move she made. She was most definitely back in her body again, but she didn't feel quite whole. It was like dancing a waltz and always being a couple of beats behind the rhythm as memories and emotions collided awkwardly with each other. The light was starting to spill cold blue from the windows. The panes of glass were smudged with soot and threw shadows across the floor. She could almost discern a pattern. It looked like beetles crawling, coming ever closer. A tiny insect army ready to attack and take her down.
          Elazki's cottage had a certain charm in daylight. Bundles of drying herbs hung from the ceiling mixed with talismans and other things she didn't want to look at too closely. A stuffed fox on top of a sort of shrine bristled from the center of the room. It was obviously well loved to have such a place of importance. She glanced at it a couple times out of the corner of her eye, half-convinced it was watching her. It was hard to believe she'd never been inside this place before, although she really had never given it's owner, Elazki, the time of day, and now she owed her life to the woman. Now she knew more about the wise woman's life than she'd have ever thought possible. In her mind's eye she saw the raven-haired woman staring at her as ferociously as a blood moon. The events of last night seemed like a million years ago. She'd been trying to put the pieces together, but every time she got the sequence wrong. There were too many gaps in her memory.
          Her husband Gilles and Elazki had been together many years ago and he'd used and abused her affections. But soon after there had been a child which was not named in the diary, but if she did the math then... Stop it, Saurimonde thought as she pursed her lips and furrowed her brow, trying in vain to organize her thoughts and quell the rising panic inside of her. It couldn't be true. It just couldn't be! And how could she tell Sordel? She needed time to figure out whether it could be possible or not. She... She never finished that thought as the sound of a man clearing his throat from the shadowy recesses of the bedroom doorway startled her.
          “Sorry. Didn't mean to scare you.”
          The timbre of his voice sent a shiver down her spine. It was rough and smooth at the same time, like a fine piece of driftwood, inviting you to run your hand over its surface. Greenish gold jungle eyes stared out of the gloom and she could see the vague outlines of a very lithe, well muscled chest. Feeling her breath catch in her throat, she didn't dare let her eyes drop any lower.
          “No... I...” her voice tailed off. How could she explain?
          “Did you get any sleep?”
          Had she slept? She wasn't sure. “I think so,” she answered tentatively
          Sordel moved across the room, stoked the fire with a few quick jabs and put the kettle on. He settled himself into the chair across from her. They stared at each other for a minute as she reflexively tightened the old blanket around her.
          “I don't know how I can ever thank you.”
          “It's not necessary.”
          There was another uncomfortable pause, longer this time. His eyes flickered to the journal lying on the table. There were a thousand questions he wanted to ask, but wasn't certain he was ready to hear the answers. The water started to boil and Sordel got up moving the kettle to the counter. He added a handful of herbs, stirring them slowly as the smell of mint and Valerian filled the cottage. He sneaked a quick peek at Saurimonde. She was more fragile looking in the daylight. Her large dark eyes had a wounded quality and the bluish circles underneath them only added to the effect. The morning light turned her hair into molten gold as it tumbled riotously down her shoulders and back. She was still lovely, though. Maybe even more so than before. He stifled the urge to gather her in his arms and tell her everything was going to be all right. That would be a lie. Everything was definitely not going to be all right. Elazki...
          Sordel dropped the metal stirrer with a clatter. Grumbling under his breath he pushed it out of the way and grabbed a couple of mugs.
          As if reading his mind she quietly asked, “What are we going to do?”
          Dark waves of hair fell across his handsome face. Irritatedly he pulled it back and tied it in a knot at the nape of his neck. He glanced at the steaming mugs remembering when he bought them for his aunt. He must have been about twelve and was so excited by the look of genuine surprise on her face.
          “I have to find her. No matter what it takes,” he answered.
          “You don't know what you're against.” Her eyes widen and a world of confusion seemed to swim within them.
          It broke his heart to see, but not his resolve. “No. But that won't stop me. She's my aunt. My only family, and the person nearest and dearest to me.”
Saurimonde smiled at him sadly. “You're a hero. It's commendable. But even a hero may not save the day in this situation.
          He shook his head. “I'm not a hero.”
          “You are. At least to me, but we have to be rational here. If you go storming off to the river there's a chance you won't find her. And even if you do, there's no telling what she might do to you. She's not the woman you know any more.”
          “That's bullshit. She would never hurt me.”
          “Listen to me. She would and it wouldn't be her fault. I know better than anyone. You wouldn't believe the things I've done...” A tear slipped down her cheek. She moved to brush it away and then stopped, her hand frozen in mid-air. She had promised herself she would never cry again. She wasn't the same victim as before and, if there was one thing the experience of being possessed had taught her, it was she was going to have to be a whole lot tougher to survive it. Tensing her muscles and taking a deep breath, she wiped the tear away, pushing all her emotions down deep inside farther than she could follow. Her face frozen and mask-like as she managed to do so. It was the only way to keep her sanity.
          “There's nothing else to say. I have to save her.”
She stared at him. “Yes, I know. But to have any kind of chance to do so we're going to have to put the pieces together and that could take some time.” She sighed, “you can run to her rescue and there's nothing I would do to stop you. Nor would I blame you for doing so, but I wish you would listen to what I'm saying first.”
          He took a deep breath as her words settled over him. She might be right, but it went against his nature to do nothing. None of it made sense. He'd watched in slow motion as Elazki stabbed Saurimonde clean through with his sword. She should have been dead. And when she started breathing again apparently unharmed, he'd forgotten everything else around him. Then he'd heard Elazki humming to herself a distance away. She had the strangest look on her face as she stared at him and then, crazily enough, she dove into the river. He'd scanned the water again and again, but she never surfaced. He should have dove in after her, but something inside of him warned him to get Saurimonde and himself out of there as quickly as possible. He wanted to protect her from the sight of Gilles' mutilated body lying by the shore. There was no way he was miraculously coming back to life again. He felt a chill as he remembered Saurimonde's black eyes flashing as she demoniacally gorged the flesh from her husband's body. Sordel closed his eyes not wanting to remember more. He rubbed his temples against the dull thud of a coming headache while saying, “There's a lot we have to talk about, but this isn't the time or the place.”
          She answered him softly, “I know, it's all too fresh. I wouldn't even know where to begin.”
He handed her a steaming mug and she took it gratefully, setting it down on the small wooden table in front of her. She bit her lip trying to decide whether or not it was wise to tell him what she'd discovered. Sordel settled back into the chair and she did her best not to stare open-mouthed at his chest.
          The steam from the tea chased away the last vestiges of sleep as he calmly asked, “What are you going to do?”
          “Go back,” she answered a little more harshly than she would have wished.
          “Go back where?” He frowned, raising his eyebrows in disbelief.
          “To the manor house.”
          “Why? You can stay here with me.”
          The last thing she wants to do is make him angry, but she has to be practical, otherwise she will be doomed. She may have already been doomed for all she knew, but she would survive this. “I know,” she said, “but I have to make an appearance and make things look as normal as possible. Besides, sooner or later someone would know I was here and there would be more trouble. And I'm going to have to explain why Gilles and that girl are suddenly missing.”
          “Her name was Mariel. She was your niece. Gilles said she ran off.”
          “She...” Her lip began to quiver, but she knew this was one of the things she must face.
          “She's gone wherever Gilles has gone.”
          “So she's dead.” He nodded grimly at this. “And Elazki?”
          “I think I know where she's gone, but it isn't somewhere we can go. At least not now.”
          “Then she's not dead.”
          “No, I would know if she were dead. But soon she'll wish she was.” Saurimonde's voice faltered. “There's something else I need to tell you about your aunt.”
          Sordel's stomach dropped. Intuitively he knew this was going to be ugly.
          She took a sip of the hot tea. It scalded her mouth, but it gave her the courage to say what needed to be said. “I read part of her diary after you gave it to me last night. I know you promised her never to read it, but...” She paused, then the words came in a rush. “She had an affair with someone who treated her very badly a long time ago. There was a child.”
          “Elazki never had a child.”
          “It says in her diary she did. She had a son about 24 years ago.”
Sordel's face started to pale at this revelation. He was 24-years-old and he had very little memory of his mother, Elazki's sister. She had died when he was two. Elazki had never said anything to him before about having a child.
          Saurimonde continued on knowing if she stopped now, she'd never be able to tell him. “It sounds like she had a very bad experience so she sent the child away and...” He stared at her in disbelief while she said, “Gilles' name is mentioned.”
          The words hung in the air. There was no way to take them back now. It was too horrible a notion to comprehend. Sordel's mind glitched, and then it hit him. Holy fuck, Gilles might have been his father. He clutched the table feeling faint for a moment, knocking over the tea. Saurimonde jumped out of the chair, backing away. He stared right through her as a rush of connections in his mind suddenly made a sort of sick sense. His stomach lurched.
          “Sordel...” Saurimonde said as gently as possible.
          He finally focused in on her, but his eyes were wild and a vein throbbed on his forehead. Without a word he turned and strode out the door, slamming it so hard the windows rattled.
          “Wait! I could be wrong...” she called after him. But it was too late. He was gone.
          “Damn it all to hell!” she shouted in exasperation, throwing down the blanket. The mouldering fox in the middle of the room stared at her and she could have sworn she saw it smile. Suddenly feeling naked, she grabbed her damp dress and covered herself as best as possible. Could it really get any worse...?

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Monday, January 27, 2014

An Interview with the Authors

Authors Scarlett Amaris and Melissa St. Hilaire share dark secrets on the writing of Saurimonde.

Special thanks to all our incredible friends who lent us their time and talents to help us make this video a reality: Yvette Lera, Jeremy Graham, Marnie Shelton Klein, Manzin, & Ashley Dayour.