Saturday, 18 February 2017

Cloak & Dagger by Michel Lee King


Title: Cloak & Dagger
Author: Michel Lee King
Genre: Fantasy


A demonic howl rips through the air. Panicked voices call out. Women race through the fields to the sanctuary of their walled village. The wolf howls again. Men barricade the entrance, daughters are wrapped in the protective arms of their mothers. Sons race to assist their fathers.

It is a scene I've seen many times. Heard many times. Caused many times. Their fear does nothing for me. I'm not here for them. I am here for the one they harbor, the one they protect. The harpy in maiden's clothing. I am here for the one who changed me.

She stole my life, my husband, my future, my sanity. Now with the wolf inside I will find her. I will shred her. That harpy will never fly again.

My name is Ashleigh. I am the big bad wolf. And I am here for Rosamund.



Excerpt #1:

The sun rose languid over a desolate land. Scrubby trees stood at sparse intervals throughout the woodland. Their pathetic limbs scrabbling for the few rays of clear sunshine making it through a perpetual blanket of thin clouds. They ringed our valley, presenting a wooden barrier at the edge of our fields. Their brethren stood stripped and bare, spiked and roped together around the village, an impenetrable wall of twigs. High above, the jagged peaks of the Carpathian Mountains looked down on us, waiting to unleash ancient evils from its cliffs.

Everything about that land appeared masked in a veil, obscured by a constant fog more smoke than mist. Mysteries and the mysterious played through the everyday. Plagued by nightmares at all times, we were a people bereft of hope or happiness. We children did not run and play as we were meant, instead we bent to our tasks staying near the parent we were obliged to mimic. Bend, cut, throw, heft, carry, do not get left behind.

I trailed after Mother in the fields, a bundle of decrepit wheat bouncing at odds with my mood in my arms. My only present from my father, a too big leather cloak stained red, kept the wind off my back. A wolf’s call rent the air. Not the yip of a normal, average, livestock-devouring creature. But the howl of the hungry demon, of a soul stealing devil who took from maidens their essence and left a flame of hell in their bodies.

We ran. The crimson leather flashed in the mist like some morbid omen as it tugged on my neck slowing me down.

The blacksmith’s eldest daughter tripped in a gopher hole, yelping in pain. I rushed to her side pulling with all the strength I could muster at ten years old. Fur flashed between the trees, glowing orange eyes tracking us as it weaved closer, and closer. The sturdy woman beneath me lurched backward as her foot popped free of the hole. She hoisted me up by the cloak and shoved. “Run, Ashleigh!”

We raced through the fields back to the safety of our village, feeling the monster stalking behind us. We crossed the painted and carved totems and symbols still maroon with dried blood thinking ourselves safe from evil. Talismans were meant to protect, sacrifices would stave off the beast’s bloodlust. Or so we thought, and we had slaughtered a fair few of our sick and weak kinsmen in those deluded hopes.

Men in leather and wool urged us deeper into the village. My mother helped them slam the heavy door closed and hold it.

I ran into my father’s arms, the customary crinkle at the edges of his blue eyes tight and fierce. “Do not fear, my Ashleigh.” His voice, a soft tenor thick with our Hungarian accent, set a soothing balm across my frenzied nerves. He gave me a tight squeeze before shoving me toward Mother. “Miriam, get her inside and barricade the door.”





The Author:

I drink copious amounts of coffee while writing light and dark fiction. It is an obsession of mine (both coffee and writing). I love to create different world people can delve into. Whether set in our world or a fantasy, I love to push my characters through experiences that most of us can relate to. We’ve all been embarrassed by our own actions. We’ve all had those moments you wish you could take back. We’ve all had the “naked on the first day of school” dream. Our idiosyncrasies are what make us human. And, I love to force those traits on my characters to see how they cope with them.

I live in western Washington state in the shadow of Mount Rainier with my husband, son, dog, and the cat that adopted us and refuses to leave. When not writing, I can be found in a library, in the woods, or reading next to the fire.

I am a raging introvert, but I can be found on social media.





Excerpt #2:

...My father joined the large group of men that gathered their weapons and stumbled into the trees.

Only half returned.

I remember that day vividly. Through the lightening grey fog, shapes, mere shadows, resolved themselves. Bulky forms swaying in the distance. “Papa!” I yelled jubilant, my red cloak flaying open as I threw my arms wide in joy expecting him to run and snatch me up like always. I knew he would save us. He always provided for us and I thought he always would.

But he didn’t answer. No jovial boom met my ears. No happy embrace. No smile that twinkled from his eyes. Just the muffled cries of the women around me being lost in the swirling mist. I scanned the shadows trying to find his shape among the others. “Papa!” I tried again, louder, more forceful and urgent, placing my fists on my hips as I had seen the other women do.

Nothing.

My mother came up behind me and cupped her hands to her jaw. I slapped my palms over my ears over the leather hood as her bellow cut through the cotton clouding our view. “Jaque?!”

My godfather, Baldarich broke away from the head of the group and strode toward us. The set of his mouth, the crease in his brow, the fatalistic warning in his eyes were interpreted in an instant by my mother who had seen her share of death. In a furious wail of agony she collapsed to her knees. She clawed at her face and hair until bloody strands fell to the desolate dirt. Other women followed suit around us as their husbands and fathers and brothers were not found in the throng.

Through the cacophony of wailers Baldarich’s voice met my ears. “Your papa fought bravely. He is the reason we are alive.” He placed a bracing hand on my shoulder that felt more like an earth shattering blow than a gesture of solace.

Young heart crushing in on itself and shattering within my foundling chest, I joined the others on their knees and wailed my anguish to the sky. I never understood why it was our custom to scream so. That day I learned the hard lesson. Sometimes the heart and soul and mind are so filled with pain that the only way to keep from going mad with the ferocity of it is to give it a voice. So I did, cloaked in crimson and feeling my heart shatter for the first time. I screamed though my chest tightened, though my heart refused to beat, though my lungs felt full of ice. My world spun, shrunk, then exploded into a thousand black shards all seeming to say, “no more.”





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