Tag Archives: fantasy

Monday Morsel: X is for eXhumation – An Extract from ‘In the Company of the Dead’



Welcome to the Monday Morsel feature, where I share short extracts from the first draft of my adult epic fantasy/fantasy romance, In the Company of the Dead.

* * * 

‘None may pass here.’ The priestess folded her arms and blocked their way, though she was slight enough Lyram could have lifted her out of the way if necessary.
‘We have the permission of the abbess,’ Ellaeva said. ‘And you know we couldn’t have come down this way unless she allowed us passage past the altar.’
The silence stretched. Darkness concealed the features of the priestess inside her raised hood, but her gaze held a weight that made it clear she studied each of them in turn. Finally, she grudgingly reached for the door.
‘Do you hear something?’ He spoke without forethought, in response to something on the edge of hearing so subtle he couldn’t even place it.
Both women turned to regard him.
‘Like what?’ Ellaeva quirked an eyebrow.
‘I don’t quite know. It was so faint I couldn’t place it – a scratching, or a shuffling maybe? Perhaps I imagined it. I can’t hear it now.’
She held his gaze a moment, and then, shrugging, addressed the priestess. ‘Unlock the door.’
The priestess released the bolts, and Lyram seized the handles and hauled. The heavy door swung open, stiff hinges protesting the movement with a long drawn out groan that echoed off the stone walls and through the clinging darkness.
Ellaeva nodded her thanks to the doorkeeper. As the door yawned open, she stepped forward.
A skeletal hand, flesh hanging from the bones, grabbed her wrist and yanked her staggering into the darkness. 

* * *

Thanks for dropping by! Don’t forget, this is a first draft, and as such won’t be perfect. If you like what you read, and are so inclined, show your support by leaving a comment. I am currently 65% of the way through the first draft of In the Company of the Dead. If you’d like to sample more of my writing, check out my novella Confronting the Demon, or any of my free short stories.

If this is your first visit to Monday Morsels, find others in the series by clicking on the ‘Monday morsel’ tag, or go to the first installment.

More about In the Company of the Dead:


Lyram already crossed a prince, and now he finds himself on the brink of crossing a god.

Son of a duke and second in line for the throne, Lyram is exiled to a lonely castle after assaulting the crown prince. When a hostile army arrives to besiege the castle, he believes the prince wants him removed – permanently.

As though answering their prayers, Ellaeva, the Battle Priestess of the death goddess, arrives unexpectedly. But she has not come to break the siege. Instead, she is in pursuit of a necromancer of the evil god of decay. When misfortune after misfortune befalls the beleaguered defenders, Lyram realises the necromancer is hidden within the walls, sabotaging the very defence.

Against the backdrop of clashing gods, Lyram must fight to save himself from the political machinations of his prince, and the dread plans of a necromancer. But as the siege lengthens, he realises the greatest threat may come from another quarter — a woman sworn body and soul to a god tempts him to pay a terrible price.

This is an A to Z Blogging Challenge post. For more information about the challenge, check it out at A to Z Blogging. If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my March Newsletter if you missed it.

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Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us! 

Sentenced to Death: Love Enough (Part 2) – Free Fantasy Fiction

Welcome back to Part 2 of Love Enough. If you missed Protestations: Love Enough (Part 1) make sure you check it out first!

* * *

Dagon’s gaze followed the line of her pointing arm. Through the shadows, he picked out the blurred outlines of a shape almost fading into the darkness. He leapt across the circle, vaulting over the broad flat altar stone at the centre of the ring. His hand dropped to the sheath on his hip; empty.

Cursing, he lunged at the intruder, but it ducked away behind the pillar of a ruined arch. Wings trailed behind the fleeing shadow. Dagon caught only a handful of feathers. Sinking his fingers in deep, he yanked backwards.

The Ishafal squealed as it fell backwards into a puddle, splashing cold muddy water over Dagon. He straddled the Ishafal, seizing an exquisitely handsome head and slamming it down into the muck, again and again. Mud splattered his face, chill and sticky.

‘Dagon.’ Annael’s touch brought him back to himself with a suddenness verging on painful. She still clutched his muddy dagger in one hand.

Dagon wiped mud from his cheek with one bare, hairy arm. The winged man stared upwards with dazed eyes. Like Annael, he possessed a face perfect beyond the possible, and his skin glowed pearlescent. Raindrops beaded on his flesh, like dewdrops decorating the rose.

‘What do you want?’ Dagon dropped the man’s head with a splash into the mud.

‘We want you to die.’ Blood trickled from a crack in the Ishafal’s lip. ‘All of you.’

His words rang with hypnotic power, compelling, luring, and seducing. Almost, Dagon wanted to grab his knife, and bury the blade to the hilt in his own chest, just to please the Ishafal. Almost, but not quite.

A sneer twisted Dagon’s lips, and he slapped the Ishafal hard, one blow, two, across his too perfect face. ‘Did you think Annael would leave me unprotected against the magic of your voice, featherbrain?’ He slapped the Ishafal hard, one blow, two, across his too perfect face. ‘Don’t waste your energy trying.’

‘You were warned, Annael.’ The Ishafal glared at her, ignoring Dagon. He dropped all pretense of glamour. ‘You knew if you did not abandon the demon, then your life hung in the balance. All your lives! You signed your own death warrant when you conceived the brat. It’s only a shame we couldn’t end this before it was whelped!’

‘You would have killed a pregnant woman?’ Horror stole into Dagon’s voice.

‘The ardesco cannot be resisted,’ Annael said. ‘You know that, Rahtiel. We are all slaves to its whims.’

‘And you know it’s tolerated for a night here and there. Permanent attachments are not. Children, never! You should have taken precautions, Annael!’

‘You would kill a pregnant woman?’ Dagon’s voice grew louder, more insistent. ‘Answer me, you slimy birdbrain!’

Seizing the Ishafal by the front of his shirt, he lifted him and prepared to slam him to the muddy ground. Rahtiel stared at him with clear blue eyes. No trace of guilt marked his face or his voice.

‘Such action is preferable to permitting the birth of a demon-Ishafal mongrel.’

A scream of rage ripped free of Dagon’s throat, a savage, wild noise tearing through the whisper of the falling rain. He slammed the Ishafal’s head to the ground again. Jamming one hand against the man’s face, he forced it sideways, into the muddied water of the puddle. Horror bloomed in the Ishafal’s eyes, the first fear Dagon had ever seen from one of his kind. The winged man thrashed, legs kicking as high as they could. Dagon planted his weight, held Rahtiel down, and forced his nose under. Eyes widened. Beautiful features twisted. Bubbles exploded in the puddle as the Ishafal panicked. Dagon pushed his head further into the mud, muscles bulging in his bare arms. The Ishafal relied too much on the seduction of their voices, and the mud drowned Rahtiel’s.

The Ishafal’s frenzied struggle weakened, and his flailing limbs slowed, until finally he stilled. Dagon held his hand to the back of the man’s neck for a moment longer.

‘He is dead, Dagon. Will you kill them all?’

His breath came in short gasps as he released the dead Ishafal, and he rocked back on his heels in the mud and the water. Mud covered him from ankle to thigh, and all across his cloak and breeches and sleeveless vest. More splattered his heaving chest. ‘If I must. How many?’

‘Fifty, at least. I feel them coming. They’ll be here soon. A few minutes, perhaps. He was only a scout. You cannot win, Dagon.’

He stared at her, broken by the truth in her words. To fight fifty was impossible. Fifty, together, would overwhelm Annael’s protections. Willingly, he’d turn his blade against himself at their instruction.

‘There must be another way.’ The words dropped from his lips with the implacable weight of a boulder, though he knew there wasn’t. 

* * * 

Check back on April 29 for the conclusion to Love Enough.  

**AUTHOR’S NOTE: This fiction piece is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and has not been to an editor.**

 If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my March Newsletter if you missed it.

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting!

Protestations: Love Enough (Part 1) – Free Fantasy Fiction



Welcome to the first part of the second piece of fiction I’ll be posting this A to Z Challenge. This one is unusual – I’m not even sure it constitutes a complete story – but I’m sharing it with you as an interest piece, a perhaps not entirely successful experiment, that despite that has been popular with a number of readers. 

This piece is unique amongst all those I have written in that it is the only one that touches on using third person omniscient. It also draws heavily from some reek rhetorical devices – as I said, an experiment of sorts.

If you read Dragon Bait, you’ll recognise this story is set in the same universe. If you haven’t read Dragon Bait – what are you waiting for? Check out Burning: Dragon Bait (Part 1)

* * *

The angel wept. The stones wept. The night sky wept.

Beneath the standing stone stood a man. The stone pressed cold and wet against his cheek, and he hunched thick shoulders against the persistent drizzle. Though his head was bowed with the weight of his burdens, the yellow gleam of demon eyes reflected in the moonlight.

His name was Dagon.

Memories paraded through his thoughts; the lonely birth of his son, and the desperate flight through the highlands of Avaril to this forsaken, crumbling ring in the wilds.

Water streamed down each stone still standing in the ruined ring, cascaded off the lintel stone of a surviving archway, and dripped from the edge of Dagon’s hood. A puddle formed around his boots, and the scent of wet grass and dirt floated on the night air.

Beneath the meagre shelter of the arch knelt the angel, still weeping, while the nameless baby screamed. Annael would not name him; Dagon could not. No name fit.

Dagon’s eyes snapped open, and he slammed his big hand against the unforgiving stone. The silent circle of stones offered no response to his mute anger.

He rounded on Annael. ‘You can’t do this!’

Annael lifted her flawless face to look into his eyes.  Tears and rain left her beauty undimmed. Her pearlescent skin glowed, transcending the rainy night’s attempt to dampen everything it touched, and her wings stood proud behind her lithe figure, defying water the way only Ishafal might. The light of the torch, flickering fitfully in the meager shelter of an arch, revealed black hair and moss green eyes deep enough for a man to drown in. Dagon had drowned.

‘We have no other choice.’ Haunting as pipes, her voice lilted through the rain.

A dizzying whirl of passion, of obsession, engulfed him; emotions formed from the essence of the magic of the ardesco. The ardor swept him up in its wave, and crashed him against the shore. No Ishafal or demon could fight the power of the ardesco.

‘There is always a choice!’ Dagon strode to Annael and seized her by the shoulders, the half-demon, half-Ishafal child pressed between them.

Annael’s wings spread in agitation, and the baby’s wailing continued unabated.

Dagon’s fingers tightened in her flesh. ‘Fight them!’

‘They cannot be fought. My brethren are of one mind.’

‘I will fight!’  

‘And you will die.’ The beautiful music of her voice echoed with a grim note of finality; a dirge in the rain. ‘And then he will die.’

One tear dripped from her bowed head onto the angry red cheek of the squalling infant. She jiggled him, and soothed him with a whispered snatch of melody. The baby’s eyes closed with a soft sigh, unable to resist the siren song of an Ishafal.

Dagon whirled away, running agitated fingers through the dark hair plastered to his skull, and smoothing the scales at the nape of his neck. ‘Barbarity! And the Ishafal insist we are the ones who are base and evil! Never would we kill an innocent child!’

Anger flashed red-hot through him. He pounded his fist again against the unrelenting hardness of the standing stone. The crumbling ruins of the circle, the fallen lintels of broken arches, and the shattered bluestones, all echoed the crumbling of his life, his heart, and his soul.

Annael stepped closer, taking his hand in hers. He shook her off.

‘Dagon, you, better than the humans, know the truth of the Ishafal.’ With one elegant, long-fingered hand she drew the knife from his hip. ‘They are coming. They can sense me; they know where I am.’ 

‘Then go! Leave us, if you must. Lead them away from here.’ Shoving the blade away, he lifted the baby from her arms. Dagon’s heart ripped with the effort of shouting the words against the obsessive compulsion of his love; a love seeded too deep in his heart by the magic of the ardesco for him to ever be free.

‘It wouldn’t help. They feel him, too, through me.’

Numb, he stared at the painful beauty of her face, at the peaceful, sleeping features of his son. Annael eased the child from Dagon’s arms.

A hollow ache blossomed in his heart. ‘I must protect you both, and you tell me I can’t?’

‘You can protect him.’

Again, she tried to press the knife into his hand. Again, he curled his heavy-knuckled fist against her.

‘He is only half Ishafal. Without me, the connection will be broken.’

‘How can you ask such a thing of me? How?’ Dagon’s voice hitched, choked by emotion he could not express. ‘Do you even comprehend what you ask?’

Her flawless face turned towards him, tear-stained and broken. In the unplumbed depths of her eyes, he saw that she knew. Like him, she was helpless as a leaf in a waterfall. Like him, she was a victim of the curse of the ardesco, to which any Ishafal or demon might succumb. She was well aware he must battle against his irresistible, desperate desire for her in order to carry out her wishes.

‘You must.’ Her voice cracked; one discordant note in a perfect symphony.

Dagon snatched the dagger from her, and hurled it away. The hilt smashed into a fallen stone. The weapon bounced, striking a sharp counterpoint to the quiet, restful drizzle of the rain, and fell into the mud with a splash.

Annael’s head snapped around, her gaze scouring the rainy darkness. ‘I sense an Ishafal. There.’



* * * 


**AUTHOR’S NOTE: This fiction piece is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and has not been to an editor.**
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my March Newsletter if you missed it.

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!

Mercy: Dragon Bait (Part 6) – Free Fantasy Story




Welcome back to Part 6 of Dragon Bait. If you missed any of Burning: Dragon Bait (Part 1), Dragonflame: Dragon Bait (Part 2), Guilt: Dragon Bait (Part 3), Ishafal: Dragon Bait (Part 4), Joust: Dragon Bait (Part 5) make sure you check them out first!

* * *

Varik stripped off his shirt, and wrapped it around the box. Although still warm through the cloth, it made the heat bearable.

A shadow fell over him as he adjusted the wrappings. His hands stilled, and he lifted his eyes.

The dragon clung to the cliff face, head down. Its tail coiled upwards out of sight, and into the rocks. Deep red scales covered the head. When the wings lifted for balance, the undersides shone a burnished gold, deepening to red at the edges. Baleful black eyes nailed him to the path.

The metal burned Varik’s hands through the fabric, and he took a step backwards, juggling the box. His foot kicked a stone, and it clattered over the edge. Varik froze. What now? If anyone had ever met a dragon face to face before, they’d not lived to tell the tale.

The dragon cocked its head. Why can I sense you in my mind, little man? 

Varik put a hand to his ears, mouth falling open. The deep voice rang inside his head, as clear as a struck bell. ‘You’re telepathic?’ And clearly intelligent, though he held his tongue on that point.

The dragon gave a horrific parody of a grin, revealing huge fangs Varik preferred not to have seen. A clawed foot, sizable enough to crush a human head, shifted its hold on the cliff face. Obviously.

‘Uh, yeah.’ A smile oozed onto Varik’s face. He switched the box to the other hand to ease the growing heat. 

You’re not Ishafal. What are you, little man? The dragon’s grin, horrific though it was, turned into a frown that was worse. I can feel the shape of your mind. You are… sad. And… guilty? 

If anything, the frowned deepened, and Varik almost stepped back again, but there was nothing but open air behind him. 

Are you guilty, little man? A dangerous stillness gripped the dragon. Its tongue flickered out, like a snake tasting the air. I don’t like guilty men. 

‘Of allowing my sister and nieces to die, yes.’ He made the admission boldly, not knowing the right answer, and so opting for the truth. What did it matter if the dragon decided to eat him anyway? ‘I was too busy hunting down treasure.’

The dragon cocked its head, but reading that scaly face was an impossibility. Treasure is important, though perhaps not so important as to abandon one’s kin. 

‘I agree.’

The dragon’s head slithered closer, the nostrils flaring. It nosed the cloth-wrapped box in his hands, apparently uncaring of, or insensitive to the heat. What is this? 

‘Treasure.’ Varik couldn’t keep the bitterness from his voice. ‘And one that killed my family.’

The dragon’s head reared back, the pupils of its eyes dilating and its wings flaring. The gust of disturbed air blew Varik’s hair about his face. 

Cesium! That is not treasure, no treasure any man wants. No wonder your family died if you were taking that rubbish home to them. 

Varik stiffened, and blinked away tears. ‘I didn’t! The Ishafal did that, after it stole this from Athelstone. I am taking it back, for safekeeping.

The dragon hesitated, half-folding its wings. For safekeeping? I do smell Siren and Fury magic… 

‘For safekeeping.’ 

Foolish man. You are no treasure hunter. What you do is a sacrifice for others. It is tragic that your family died while you fulfilled this great duty, but the blame is not on your shoulders. 

‘What? It is. I wasn’t there to save them, to-’ To what, to stop an Ishafal? Did I have a dragon in my  pocket then, too? 

The dragon prodded him with its nose, and Varik clutched at a horn to keep his balance. Realising what he’d done, he let go again, but the dragon turned its head, lifting him away from the precipice. He fell back to the rocky path.  

You are not to blame. I will not eat you. Which is fortunate, as you look rather stringy. 

Varik laughed, hysteria edging the grim mirth. A deep rumbling came from the dragon. A growl? No, the dragon laughed as well, scaly lips peeling back from great teeth. Varik laughed harder, until the hysteria turned into actual amusement. A dragon – a dragon– had actually absolved him of guilt, and then made a joke about eating him!

The dragon lowered its head, extending one leg. I will carry you to Athelstone, though. This returning the cesium to its guardians is noble indeed. I would be pleased to ensure you suffer no further interruptions. 

Varik looked at the inviting leg, his stomach in knots. Could he really trust the creature not to make a snack of him? He swallowed hard. Then again, it was more than clear that the dragon would have cooked him up for a treat if it hadn’t liked his intentions for the cesium.

Staring up into night-black eyes, Varik sketched a deep bow. ‘I would be honoured.’

Grief still nestled in the back of his mind, a fragile egg waiting to crack open, but the guilt, like the need for revenge, had been laid to rest. Hitching the hot box uncomfortably in the crook of his arm, Varik reached up and began to climb. 

* * *
**AUTHOR’S NOTE: This fiction piece is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and has not been to an editor.**

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my March Newsletter if you missed it. 

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!

Joust: Dragon Bait (Part 5) – Free Fantasy Story

 Welcome back to Part 5 of Dragon Bait. If you missed Burning: Dragon Bait (Part 1), Dragonflame: Dragon Bait (Part 2), Guilt: Dragon Bait (Part 3), or Ishafal: Dragon Bait (Part 4), make sure you check them out first!

* * * 

Bursting from the entrance, Varik squinted in the brilliant sunlight, and veered down the mountain path. Please, please, let it work… 

He clung hard to the cliff face. Glancing back over his shoulder, he eased his way down the path. His heart pounded in his ears. The Ishafal dashed onto the ledge, with the box clutched too easily beneath her arm. Where was the dragon?


The winged woman swung around as she spotted him, one hand lifting. Varik ducked behind a stone outcrop. A boiling mass of fiery magic seared past his ear, and the skin of his cheek and neck burned with the sudden heat.

I need that dragon! 

A rush of wind announced its arrival. The dragon bellowed, the sound reverberating off the mountain. A shower of small stones rained down on Varik, and he shielded his face with his arms. The Ishafal squealed, her beautiful voice shrill with fear. 

More magic boiled upwards, clouds of blue and violet flames spewing blindly into the air. Varik half scrambled and half slid down the cliff path, dislodging pebbles and debris in his haste.

The dragon banked to avoid the Ishafal’s magical attack, swinging wide out above the valley below, and sweeping back up the path. Varik dropped to his belly as the huge creature flew over. The wind from the dragon’s wings tugged at his clothes. Dragonflame heated the air, scorching Varik’s throat as he sucked in a breath. Smoke, thick and choking, followed.  

Varik coughed, and rolled. The dragon disappeared over the mountain and its flame left the cliff path scorched and blackened, an image of blasted desolation and stark beauty. Melted stone and sand cooled into glass. A charred and smoldering pile of rags fluttered in the breeze by the cave entrance. The smoke stirred, and began to dissipate.

His heart still thudded in his chest. A deep breath seared his lungs with hot air, and he scrambled to his feet, heading up the path. His legs shook. The stone burned through the soles of his boots. As he approached, the smoking pile cracked open, spilling a few hot embers onto the ground. They died in an instant. Shreds of charred violet and blue cloth fluttered amongst bone fragments and featureless lumps of grey ash.

Only a cold kind of satisfaction filled him at the sight and, hard on its heels, a hollow disappointment. Mesalina and the girls still rotted in the earth. The fire of his hatred flickered, and went out, leaving only the damning guilt.  

Where was the box?Tiny worms of fear wriggled in his gut. If the box was destroyed, if this cesium was no longer contained… He was still dead. 

Varik whirled, eyes searching the barren stone of the mountain path.The iron box lay a few yards away, thrown clear by the concussive forces of the brief battle. The metal glowed red and cooled to iron grey. Apart from a thin film of greasy ash, it appeared undamaged.


Varik breathed out a huge sigh, shaking his head. He’d expected the contents to survive, but not the box. Dragonflame could consume a simple metal box. Of course, only a fool expected a box created by Sirens and Furies to be simple.

With one finger, he tentatively touched the metal surface and jerked it back. He sucked the sting away. Too hot to hold, and would be for a while. Varik stared out off the edge of the path. No sign of the dragon, but he dare not assume he was safe. He needed somewhere to hide. Though he’d cloaked himself from the dragon automatically, he was highly visible on the cliff path.

* * *



**AUTHOR’S NOTE: This fiction piece is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and has not been to an editor.**

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my March Newsletter if you missed it.

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!