Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Monday, 29 September 2014

Welcome to Nephilius - Chapter 1

Chapter 1



The white mist rolled in over the flat plains of Neol, the training grounds of the Nephilius tournament. Delane could feel the cold coating her skin, but her body remained an even temperature. She endured in her statue-like pose, wings tucked in at her sides, breathing smooth and both hearts pumping at a steady rate.
She was facing two different flocks at the moment and needed to keep her wits sharp. There were five flocks on Nephilius: black, red, white, green, and blue. And they all fell under the banner of Angelica. Each flock was separate and distinct in their abilities, and the color of their wings dictated where each belonged.
Red flashed as someone soared in from the side. Delane dropped to the ground and the shadow passed over her head. She moved and in an instant her black wings spread out and she used their serrated edges to tear through her opponent. Flickers of dark maroon blood were a dramatic contrast to their cloud surroundings. Delane’s pitch-black hair, which was shoulder length, flew around in an arc as she moved back into fight position.
“Lane! You just tore the hell out of me.”
She heard the exasperated voice of Jesile, her training partner from the red flock. It was unusual for a black-wing like Delane to be close with any of the others. But the two females had been friends a long time.
The black flock were the more elite fighters and they were respected but not really liked; mainly because they governed the five flocks of the Angelica race. Reds were in general underhanded and manipulative, but Delane had found Jesile to be trustworthy.
Delane’s eyes shone as she observed her surroundings. The iris of each eye – which was black and blended into her pupil – reflected back the scene. She smiled at Jesile when she limped into view. Her friend had a large gash down one of her wing planes, but it was already starting to heal.
The females moved back to back, their wings standing many feet above their heads. Two males from the white flock were circling them, biding their time and using the mists to blend in. The white controlled the cool mists and could use it for very advantageous camouflage. Each of the five flocks had unique skills.
Delane switched her eyesight across to intense vision, and she was able to make out the shadows of the other Angelicas within the mist.
“Down and second quadrant to the right.” She barked the order at Jesile.
Simultaneously they hit the ground, rolled two spaces across to the right and emerged on either side of the whites, who had been creeping closer, hoping for a surprise attack.
Delane and Jesile formed a high dome with their wings and, spinning rapidly in a circle, they cut into their opponents, taking their legs out from under them. The serrated wings were enough to injure an Angelica but not seriously, so they relied on the strength in their winged muscles to pummel the whites into the ground, tiring them out for a future attack.
The skirmish lasted for many minutes until the loud horn sounded, followed by the chime of the harps.
Training was over and it was time to return to their zones.
“Farewell, Lane.” Jesile gave an incline of her head, before turning away. “See you in the morn.”
Delane saluted before tucking her massive wings against her body and moving toward the black zone.
The black-winged Angelica fell under the name Gaa. Their ruling council were situated in the center of a cloud field. From there they discussed events, tactics and the tournament which was to start in a short while.
Delane was young to be a council member. She had earned her place through her many accolades, including being champion of the tournament. So now when she wasn’t fighting she helped with the meetings.
Upon entering the council room, a mist-walled dwelling, Delane sheathed her weapons and left her armor at the entrance.
“We have big news, Delane.” Her mentor, Galern, with his charcoal-colored skin and masses of white hair, rushed forward to grasp her hands. “We have an outsider competing in the tournament for the first time in a millennium,” Galern continued, tendrils of his hair flying forward as he gestured with large mannerisms.
Delane paused, before turning to the other ten council members.
“How is this possible? Do we even allow outsiders in? Where do they stay? They have no flock or territory.”
The oldest of all black-winged Angelica was Steva, a wizened woman with more opinions than any other Delane had met.
“Of course we let in those who are not from Nephilius. How can we call ourselves a race of warriors if we are not truly tested? They assure us that they do not need to stay here for rest. They will just come for the battles.”
“Did they only meet with our council?” Delane’s voice dropped. She leaned her upper body forward. “And where was I?”
“You were training, Lane,” Galern said. “And we called in representatives from all five flocks.”
Delane’s features hardened. She was not only the youngest black-winged council member, but she was also the only one to still battle in the tournament. Which meant on occasion she missed the meetings.
There didn’t seem to be any point arguing and, if she was honest, Delane was interested in testing her skills against others. The tournament started in fourteen eclipses of the sun-cloud, the ball of energy which shifted across their sky, and she couldn’t wait. It was her favorite time of schedule on Nephilius. Closely followed by the energy blast and the battle of the demons.
The energy blast: when members of all five flocks sent out their collective magicks to form the next generation. Their young grew on the Isle of Birth, emerging from the garden wingless and vulnerable. Two representatives from each of the flocks tended the young for the first few months, until their wings developed and their flock membership was revealed.
And the battle of the demons: the first true test of strength on Nephilius. Upon maturity an Angelica would venture to Stormhaven to battle the shadowy demon spawn, monsters from mythical time that the Angelica engaged in long, bloody sagas.
There were ten different lands – cloud masses – on Nephilius. Stormhaven was one; the Isle of Birth another; five that were the flocks’ territories; Neol, the tournament grounds; one was empty, its clouds too fragile to support life; and the last was – “The Isle of Souls.”
Delane focused back on the room when Galern mentioned the souls. The Angelica had been trying for a long time to lift the curse that plagued their race. They were long lived but not immortal and, upon final death, their souls were supposed to be released back to the mother. But for the last thousand cycles of the sun-cloud, the dead had been trapped on the Isle of Souls. And they couldn’t figure out how to free them.
“The Walker promised they would look at our souls and see if there was a way to lift the curse,” Galern continued. “It’s as good a chance as we’ve ever had. His power was strong and he disappeared into a swirling portal. Things beyond our knowledge.”
Delane again held back words of protest. The situation with the souls was fast becoming desperate. The balance on Nephilius had been thrown out, because the dead should be leaving to be reborn, not trapped on the isle. And in any situation in nature where the balance was skewed, sooner or later something happened to right the natural cycle.
“Remind me again what you believe will happen if we don’t free the souls?” Delane asked her council members.
“The trapped dead will draw the energy of everyone on Nephilius and all of us will walk in the shadow world with them,” Steva answered without hesitation.
Delane was still having trouble trusting this. The elder woman was prone to dramatics, but she was also very wise. So it was hard to know.
“How much time do we have?” Galern asked, his brow furrowed. He was much more inclined to believe Steva’s word. 
“I already feel the draw,” she said, her eyes lifting skyward. “Don’t you find your energy scattering more frequently? We have less young emerging, and are weaker in battle. These are the signs from the four prophets of the end of days.”                                                                                                        
The Angelica were trained soldiers, and one thing they did was obey order. Written at the dawn of their race was the book-of-life. It was filled with rules and prophesy. Most of them were obscure and open to interpretation. Often, Delane interpreted their meaning differently to the rest of her race, and that wasn’t her only abhorration.
She was stronger, faster, and her wings more lethal than those of her brethren. She knew that she was an anomaly on Nephilius: she was the only Angelica born of flesh – her mother had somehow grown and birthed her many years before, and the red council members had reacted to her birth by killing her mother soon after.
War had almost erupted then, and Delane still wished it had; she held a grudge against the others for their murderous behavior.
It was lucky she was still a babe when they came for her mother. As a fully grown Angelica, no one wanted to test Delane, especially if she lost her cool and released the molten lava of energy inside her. Energy that controlled the very air that flowed through the cloud lands. Delane often used the air as an aid in battle. She could see minute details through the vision of air particles. She could use the air to knock objects away or bring  them toward her. She could steal the breath from an Angelica, but not sufficiently to kill them; there was too much air available.
“I want to see the Isle of Souls.” Her voice rang out across the space.
“Why?” Galern asked. “What do you hope to achieve?”
“I want to use my senses. It’s one thing to be told something and another to experience it for yourself.” Delane wondered if her advanced senses would clue her into something that others had missed.
“Take her, Galern.” Steva waved her hands, already turning away to consult her charts and pages of prophesy.
Delane’s mentor studied her for a moment before nodding once. “Okay, let us leave now so we can return and still have plenty of time for your training before the tournament begins.”
No more words were spoken. Galern simply donned his armor, as did Delane, and they left the mist-dwelling. And then with a burst of energy her mentor’s powerful wings extended to the side, and with a few hard thrusts he moved up into the mists, Delane following closely.

They flew for many hours. The higher they were from the cloud lands, they clearer the air was. They crossed over half of the ten lands of Nephilius. Each of the five flock zones was similar to the one before. The only thing that differentiated them was the assortment of mist buildings and the colors woven into the outer areas, colors which matched their wings. The Isle of Birth was quiet, most of the last group of young had grown their wings and were with their flocks now.
When they reached the junction of the ten lands, Galern turned to the left and they were over the Isle of Souls. Delane never fatigued, but she knew the other Angelica would be tiring. They would have to land.
She heard the screams long before she saw them.
The souls were no more than colored mists floating around the cloud mass, somehow contained, unable to move on to rebirth. Galern descended and she followed. The souls wrapped around them, but couldn’t do anything to physically interact.
Delane’s two hearts started to pump harder. There was so much sorrow here that her body was reacting. Usually she kept a tight control on her emotions and physical functions, but it was going to be increasingly difficult the longer they stayed on the isle.
“How large is this land? How many souls do we estimate are here?” Delane’s voice was low, tremors of her emotions lacing the words.
Galern looked at her with some concern, never having seen her react in that manner before. “This is the largest of the ten lands. We believe that’s why the entity that cursed us chose here.” A black shadow darted between them. “In that time there’s been a few hundred deaths amongst the Angelica flocks. And a few beast deaths from Stormhaven.”
The beasts were distinct amongst the souls. They were the black and red mists.
“It’s strange that the beasts are also trapped here. I didn’t even know they had soul energy.” Delane shook her head, her short black hair flying around her face. 
The Isle of Souls would be massive if it was the largest of the ten. The black flock only numbered in the thousands, and they lived on a land area of millions of miles. They used all of the space for training and flying.
“Everything has soul energy, some is small, others larger, but one must never underestimate the importance of even the smallest creature. The great circle is vital.”
Delane often received these speeches. She was young for an Angelica, only fifty years, and the elders lived to impart their wisdom.
Ignoring Galern for the moment, she closed her eyes and expanded her energy from her body. The rush of air energy fled from her like the tides of a body of water, and as she started to expand she hit the barrier encasing the Isle of Souls. Each of the ten lands was separated by an abyss. Vast and endless pits that fell to somewhere at the center of Nephilius, and this was where the cage holding the souls was coming from.
“There’s a barrier,” she said out loud. “It’s formed from dark and light energy, but it’s not from an Angelica.”
“How can you tell?”
Her eyes flew open at the gruff nature of Galern’s voice. “Because the five flocks each have a distinct energy pattern, and it’s slightly altered for each individual. But I can always tell what flock an Angelica is from, even before I see the wing color.” And she always knew which flock the young would end up belonging to, even before they grew their wings.
“Have you ever felt energy like this before?” Galern brought his arms and wings closer into his body as some black souls swirled closer.
“It’s similar to the energy of the shadow beasts on Stormhaven. Could it be connected?”
Galern pushed back the free strands of his wild, white hair. “Our last lot of Gaa – black wings – that came back from their battles said that the landscape was much more dangerous than they’d been led to believe. Do you think things may have changed there also?”
Delane worried at her lip. She hadn’t been to Stormhaven for a long time. “It very well could be different. The only ones to go there are the newly matured Angelica, and they have nothing to compare it to. We must go at once.”
“You don’t sense a way for us to break this barrier?” Galern asked as they spread their wings in preparation for flight.
“The energy sustaining it comes from deep within the abysses between our lands. I’ve never found any Angelica who could tell me what exists down there. Do you know?”
Galern shook his head. “Any that have ventured or fallen between have never been heard from again. We’re taught to accept the endlessness that exists and never step foot into the abyss.”
Delane sighed. Typical of the Angelica: they just took everything on faith, caring more for who could swing a sword the fastest, or best another in battle. Anything else was unimportant to them.
Their wings sent out swirls of misty air as they pumped and took flight again. Galern had recharged the energy expended during the last journey and would have no trouble making the distance to Stormhaven.
Angelica became rejuvenated by planting their bare feet onto the cloud masses. Energy would trickle into their bodies to sustain them. This was why, despite the armor they wore, they never covered the soles of their feet. This method still worked for Delane, but she just tired out less frequently than the average fifty-year-old on Nephilius.
Stormhaven was the only land mass to have black rather than white clouds. The beasts had been there for as long as Delane could remember, but there were some living Angelica who recalled the day the whole world turned black.
It was never dark on Nephilius, but for one seemingly endless moment a shadow had descended over the lands, and then Stormhaven was born. Before that moment none other than Angelica had existed on Nephilius, but now there were the beasts: large fire-breathing, shadow-dwelling creatures. They were able to transform between both physical and mist. They could not be hurt when they were in their translucent form, but in their physical form they could be killed. Though it was damn hard. Delane had killed three when she’d come to maturity, and that was a record. Only a very few Angelica had even managed to harm one. Going to Stormhaven was more about bravery and survival.
The white swirling mists slowly changed to gray and then black tendrils as they neared the junction that would take them across to Stormhaven. Delane’s advanced hearing picked up the screeching howls; she had her weapons unsheathed and in her hands before they landed.
The air was clear even on the ground here, and littering the land were large, unnaturally formed cloud structures. The shadow beasts used these to their advantage, lying in wait for the unsuspecting Angelica.
“You must hurry, Delane. We cannot linger here for long.” Galern also held his weapons, a set of spiked-ended clubs. He was swinging them around in random arcs, keeping his reflexes honed for a sudden attack.
“Yes, the same energy is here now too. Stronger than it ever was.” Delane started to run, her strides long and strong.
She could move across the land fast enough to be a blur to the casual observer. Galern took to the air above her. Delane was following the pull and again it led her to one of the cloud edges, the abyss falling away below.
Peering down, Delane could see nothing, just the black clouds fading out to the white mists, which was all that was visible in the gaps between the ten lands. The abysses separating the lands were large, about a mile across, and as far as anyone knew, endless miles down. Delane would be liar if she said she’d never thought of flying down there. But something held her back.
A soft thud indicated that Galern was beside her again.
“It’s from the abyss again,” she huffed. “If these foreigners do not solve our problem, I might have to go down there.”
“Lane!” he gasped. “That’s suicide.”
“It could mean death to our entire world if we don’t free the souls. What choice do I have?”
A noise had them both spinning around.
Coming at them from all sides were shadow beasts. They shimmered in shades of black, gray and white. Some of them were small, others huge, and there were at least ten in total. That in itself was unusual; Delane had never noticed them to hunt in packs.
“Want to try our luck?” She grinned at Galern, who shook his head as they both took to the air, expertly sheathing their unused weapons in the first few flaps.
Luckily no shadow beast could fly. The prowling, snarling creatures let out shrieks as their prey moved out of reach. Blasts of heat followed them as fire spewed from the larger ones, but the Angelica were too fast in the air.
They powered along in silence, Delane wracking her brain to figure out what could be causing the probem on the Isle of Souls and most probably the existence of the shadow beasts. It was the same energy, and it was not natural.
They arrived back on the tournament lands just in time for long-sword training. Delane left Galern at the mist-dwelling. He would let the black leaders know about their findings. She strode across to the center of the field. With her energy she manifested a broad sword from the mists. It took a few moments for it to solidify and turn a steel gray.
“Ready to fight?” Jesile stood with a few of the red flock, her half-grin shooting toward Delane, her spiky orange hair standing up around her delicate features.
Delane swung her sword a few times. “I was born ready. Let’s rumble.”
She pushed thoughts of the Isle of Souls, Stormhaven and the mysterious Walkers from her mind. It was time to battle. She let a grin cross her face as the other flocks stepped up. This was going to be an all-in brawl. The five colors were preparing for the tournament and they weren’t going to be taking it easy on anyone.
This was going to be painful, for everyone but Delane.

Sunday, 31 August 2014


First draft of Nephilius is done. Holy major reveal in the last chapter too, I can't even believe it has jumped into the story so quickly

WOOHOOOO so freaking excited. I'm looking at October 28th for release date, so lock it in those calendars. I'll be back as soon as possible with first chapter and cover reveal. (And maybe a few other snippets).

You all rock, thanks for the masses of Walker love I've been receiving lately - right back at ya ♥♥

Saturday, 9 August 2014

hello, hello.

Just checking in with my progress reports. I'm a bit over the 50% mark on Nephilius and I hope to have cover reveal in the not too distant future. And I've started work on book 2 in a Sinclair Story. This will be Matt and Candy's story. But let's get this Walker book done first :)

Sunday, 27 July 2014

One of those days.

Writing is hard, putting yourself and your work out into the world is hard. I'm kind of getting the impression my romance sucks a little (or a lot) haha. I do see the point being made that it is a little unrealistic. I guess for me, I've always loved the romances where they don't make sense, where two people are so different and far apart that for them to be together it can only be love. Because then that's the strongest tie. Not just because they live in the same town or work in the same careers.

but I might be on my own with this. I wanted my heroine to be tough, have lived a hard life, but to still have remained a little innocent. To still have a soft side that with the right person and coaxing would appear. And I wanted my hero to be perfect for her, so he would do and say the right things.  Oh well, maybe a fail this time or maybe romance is not my thing haha. Best stick with fantasy.

I appreciate you all though, good and bad comments. It is helping me grow as an author.  I've learned a lot over this one year of writing.  And I'll continue to learn :)

Saturday, 12 July 2014

It's giveaway time!!

The anniversary of my 1 year as a published author is July 18th. I'm having a giveaway to celebrate.  Details will be posted to my facebook page and on blog. I'm also giving away some ARC (eBook) of Songbird. If you're interested contact me at :)

Giveaway prizes -
1. Signed copies of all 4 books in Walker Saga
2. $10 Amazon giftcard
3. Signed copy of First World + SWAG

Make sure you like my facebook page to stay updated.

Thursday, 19 June 2014


I love all the positive feedback for the Walker Saga, keep the messages and questions coming. I am working away at Nephilius, book 5 and there are many new things happening. I don't want to give too much away, but right now Lucy is discovering her family. Which is an exciting (and fundamentally important) development.

In other news I have another book to release. It is book 1 in a NA Contemporary Romance series, recommended for 18+ (sex scenes and language) and will be a full length, standalone HEA sexy romance.

Songbird (a Sinclair Story)

I live my life by two rules. Never trust anyone and you don’t need a weapon when you are one.
Melodee Lee aka Songbird

Melodee Lee is not your average twenty-three year old. Her parents were government trained assassins and the base definition of evil. The best thing they ever did was leave her an orphan at thirteen.

Life’s circumstances have honed her into a strong, independent outsider. She’s made it a point to never settle down, and trust is the last thing she gives. Utilizing her only skill, she makes money in the underground cage fighting scene and anyone who doesn’t like it … well, Melodee can kick their ass as well.

Nathan Sinclair is a man with the world at his fingertips. His family is rich, politically connected and owns half of Syracuse, NY. A rising basketball star, set to be signed by the NBA, the last thing he needs is a woman with attitude crashing into his life.

Tragic circumstances bring these two people together when their worlds should never have collided. Will Nathan be the man to show Melodee that trust and a real home are not as unattainable as she believes? Or will his own demons and Sinclair family drama destroy the life they could have before it has begun?

Release date will be in July 2014.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Release date for Regali - 7th June 2014

Lock it in people :) so excited (and quietly freaking out - hope you love it), to bring you the next part of the Walker Saga. Over halfway.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Regali: Chapter 1

This is the unedited version and is subject to change. :) Welcome to the world of Regali.

Chapter 1



The two jag men waved their fronds, swishing around the tropical heat which encased Ria’s loft house. They had insisted on this task, but in reality the humidity did not bother Ria; she had been born in the rainforest and her blood hummed within the confines of this damp and natural environment.
Rising from her day bed, Ria stretched to her full height, working out all of the kinks from her slumber. A few beads of sweat rolled along her body, usual for the weather here.
She waved off the jags. They gave a brief bow to their queen before departing and leaving her to the morning ritual. Clothed only in her tawny skin, Ria strode across to the large opening which was hung with threaded vines to separate her home in the tree tops from the rest of the jungle. With the barest of thoughts the barrier shifted out of her way. She thanked her beloved plants with a blown kiss.
Standing in the perfect still of the jungle, Ria absorbed the glow of the six moons surrounding Regali. They cast soft filtered light through the dense wilderness. Her platform was two miles high, in one of the older trees, allowing the most unrestricted view of her territory.
Ria thought of the tales from the south. She’d never left her home but she had heard that other countries had clear land and expanses of flat grass-plains. She couldn’t really imagine that. Her country was the jungle of Artwon and there was no free space. They must feel exposed, not having the protection of undergrowth and high level tree tops.
She was not startled by the growled greeting. Her best friend and bodyguard was Klea, a leon. She turned around. The blue-tinged light from the moons highlighted the female standing in her doorway. She was shorter than Ria, as were all in this jungle, except the bera pack. Klea’s mane was a dark golden color, long down her back and wrapping around to coat her forehead and cheeks. The rest of her fur covering was a lighter gold, the same color as her eyes.
“You are well?” Klea said gruffly. Her vocal cords only resonated in a low rough sound.
Ria nodded. “For once I slept uninterrupted. The tree spirits kept the dreams away.”
Klea growled. “The tree spirits? I do not know why you ask anything of them. They are your family and still you must be indebted to them after each favor.”
Ria’s mother, Theanine, was the matriarch of the tree spirits. The gods of Regali. Theanine was literally mother-to-nature. None of the spirits existed on the physical plane any longer. Ria was the last to walk with the beasts. Her mother had taken a temporary corporeal form to conceive and grow her child. But then she had returned to the spiritual plane.
“You know that there must be equilibrium; if I take I must also give. The spirits keep the natural balance.” Ria was steadfast in her defense of her mother’s people.
Right now Ria was the most powerful creature in Artwon. All living plants heeded and obeyed her call. And for this reason she was Queen of the beasts who lived within these jungles. There were six main packs. The jags: small cat people; leon: large cat people; bera: grizzlies; eaglet: the flyers; slimes: reptiles; and munks: the apes. The smaller or mixed breeds were scattered around, mostly keeping to themselves.
“Where am I visiting today?” Ria asked as she clothed herself in leather and vines.
The sparse two-piece set had been weaved from an array of donated skins from the packs. It was the right of the Queen to wear her people. In the long past the packs would sacrifice members for the honor of the leader wearing their skin. Today, thankfully, the leather was from those naturally fallen.
“It is the morning before the red moon, Ria. You must convene with the tree spirits and prepare for the shifting.”
A smile spread across Ria’s full lips. She should have known. Her blood was boiling this morning and her spirit extra restless. She was not pack and did not have to shift on the red moon, but she still felt the pull. Striding forward, her long mahogany hair fell almost to her calves. With her innate agility she leapt from the outer branch, landing in the next tree. From here she took a vine down to the ground level.
The thick undergrowth hugged her legs in greeting. A quick pause by the reflective pool where she bathed gave her time to trail a hand along her favorite purple calia flowers. Their iridescent color was a perfect match for her own eyes. Her mother surrounded this area with the beautiful but deadly flower, as she knew they soothed Ria’s soul. The benefit of having a nature goddess as her mother. The negative was, of course, never having her physically around. Ria had been raised with the leons, hence why Klea was her best friend.
“Let’s go, you have many miles to traverse this morning.” Klea spoke after clawing her way down to where Ria stood.
They started at a run, in the direction of the sixth moon, toward the sacred tree. The undergrowth was dense, but that posed no problem. The plants and vines simply shifted for them. Ria had already sent out her energy along their path to let the forest know she needed a clear run. With the help of her plants they would be at their destination in no time.

She kneeled, allowing her chestnut-colored hair to fan around her; the vines that were imprinted across it shimmered green. Ria closed her eyes, her hands reaching forward to lie flat-palmed against the sacred one. It was the first tree in Regali’s existence, and from where all the tree spirits were born. Ria felt her energy separate from her being and entwine with the warmth of her ancestors. Words were never spoken out loud or internally; it was simply a joining of spirit, a moment for thanks and recharge.
Her head snapped up at the interruption. No one was ever to disturb her during these blessed moments. Where was Klea? Suddenly her friend moved into view. She had her muscled arms locked around the throat of a munk.
“Sorry, Ria, I was too slow to cut off his vocal cord access.” Klea lowered her head, shame spreading across her cat-like features.
Ria waved her hand, rising from her kneeling position to stand before them.
“Let him speak,” she said.
Klea growled at these words.
“He would not have disturbed me if it wasn’t important,” Ria finished. She had great faith in her people. They were honorable.
With one last rumble from her chest, Klea loosened her muscular arms, allowing the munk to suck in a deep breath. His dark fur was disheveled, but it was more the panic in his eyes which moved Ria.
“Speak without fear,” she told him, flicking her head at Klea so she would back up a few steps.
“I apologize, your most majestic one.” He spoke in the tongue of the beasts, which had taken Ria many years to understand.
It was far different to the words of the gods that she spoke.
“I have been sent from my pack. We need your help. The fringe are back.”
Ria straightened, adrenalin flooding her system. She winced as Klea’s roar of pain and anger echoed throughout the jungle foliage. The fringe, as this group of misfits was known, had killed Klea’s sister: Agia. Ria also mourned the loss of Agia. They had been searching for the fringe’s hidden territory for years, but so far the plants were keeping it secret, even from Ria.
“How many of them?” she asked as they started to run.
“At least ten,” he said.
There was no time to waste. The fringe had not been seen for many red moons, and this was a chance to stop the carnage. Ria mentally called for her people.
They had a system where the plants around each of the six packs’ territories would alert them. Each pack had trained guards who had pledged their loyalty to her, but unlike other queens, she did not have them by her side all the time. She preferred they stayed to protect their packs, only leaving if she called for their help. But the fringe were strong and dangerous, made up of rogue members from every pack and, since they killed indiscriminately, Ria knew she would need help. Plus, each pack deserved the chance to avenge its dead.
They were fast through the jungle. Klea and the munk used the trees, flying through the higher canopy. Ria was safer on the ground, her plants lending their assistance. The heat continued to beat down, humidity coating her shining skin. The six moons that circled Regali kept their world warm, and when the red moon rose, the heat’s intensity increased. Ria tried to calm herself as she travelled. As Queen she needed to keep the situation from escalating. She could never let go of her base instincts and unleash the fury inside. But these misfits were testing her patience as they wrought a path of destruction through the packs. She had to protect her people.
The munks’ territory was in the south of Artwon, where the trees were extra high and the undergrowth sparse. Ria could hear calls echoing through the greenery. The soldiers of the packs were moving through the jungle, preparing to descend on the fringe.
Artwon wasn’t a large country and the packs lived reasonably close to each other. There were many rules for co-habitating, and if they were broken by any members then there was a trial by their peer group and the final sentence was dealt with by the Queen.
It was these rules which had offended the animalistic sentimentality of the fringe members. They wanted to fight and war without repercussion. But Ria would be dead and back with her ancestors before she let anarchy rule the packs. Her appointment as Queen had been a hard-fought battle. For the first time in history Artwon was ruled by someone not of the packs. She had worked to tame them, although it was wise to never forget their animal sides.
With a brief mental command Ria lifted her arms and called for the vines she used to swing herself through the trees. She was fast and had unlimited stamina, but that was nothing compared to that of the packs, and so this was the easiest way for her to keep up with them.
To her left five slimes swung into view. They nodded their heads in a deferential greeting to her. On her right were the jags. She could see bera grizzly guards beneath her, thrashing through the undergrowth. She winced as her plants were trampled. Her energy cleared the rest of the path, saving any further plant deaths.
The vines continued to swing her in graceful arcs. Her advanced hearing detected the echoes of screams from the munks’ territory. She urged her journey on faster. She needed to get there now; the fringe members were probably tearing them apart. As a rule the munks were smart, agile and quick, but in brute strength they were near the bottom of the packs, except for their ape guards. But by the sounds of it they were in trouble.
The vines propelled her through the outer perimeter of the munks’ territory.
And suddenly the carnage came into view.
The mangled body of a female munk, crouched over her two babies, was the first thing Ria saw. Pain exploded in Ria’s chest and she let out a cursing shriek that rang through the trees.
She had been too late for that family.
The plants around her immediately reacted to her pain and anger. The jungle sprang to life: vines shooting around, branches descending and being used as weapons by the pack guards.
Ria’s rapid observations determined that the messenger munk had been mistaken. There were not ten; there were at least three dozen fringe members. They were easy to discern by the red streaked throughout their fur. This was their gory calling card: blood of the enemies. And they were organized. Half of them were fighting through the pack, keeping them all occupied, whilst the other half were stealing food and healing stores.
The messenger munk was crouched over the fallen body of the female and young. He had gathered them into his arms, rocking back and forward, his howls ringing through the screams and fighting.
Ria’s heart ached for him. But before she could move closer, a tiny cry could be heard. The munk’s head flew up in shock and Ria couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
One of the babies crawled out from under its mother and into his arms. Followed by the second baby. Ria felt both relieved and saddened; their mother had died protecting them, but at least they had not been sacrificed.
The munk cradled both the tiny creatures in his arms. As he stood he caught Ria’s eye.
She could see his need for help and sent the vines to him. They formed a safe netting into which he reluctantly released his offspring. As Ria’s warm energy mingled with the plants, she asked the vines to take and protect the young until she called for them. The greenery disappeared up into the canopy.
The munk dropped beside his mate again, kissing her once on the head and closing her eyes before he stood and turned away.
Ria lost him as he plunged into the crowd. The other packs’ guards had arrived now and they soon had the fringe members surrounded.
As Ria strode over to the main group she wondered why they’d allowed themselves to be caught. Fringe did not usually come in willingly.
A burst of noise had her spinning around and a vine snatched her up just as another large group of beras flooded the munks’ territory.
Their fur was speckled with blood.
From her secure position, Ria was able to send the rest of the vines to seize her people, saving them from the ferocity of the new arrivals’ attacks. Beras stood over ten feet tall, strong and brutal with razor claws and jaws full of massive teeth. For some reason more of this pack had defected to the fringe than any other.
After rescuing their members, the fringe disappeared into the jungle, taking with them the munks’ supplies.
Ria followed using the sight of her plants, hoping to be led to their territory. The plants were her best chance of keeping up with them. The guards were in pursuit but were already a step behind.
And then midway through Artwon, as they neared the old waterfall, the fringe members simply disappeared. It was always the same, and she couldn’t understand how they hid from the jungle. She searched aimlessly for a few more minutes, but the foliage sensed no disturbance at all.
Pulling her energy from the trees she focused back on the scene in the munks’ territory. The vines dropped her down and she rushed to offer help and comfort. The screams of grief were deafening as packs found loved ones dead.
Ria joined with those moving to tend to the injured. She spent many hours using her knowledge of healing and plants to fix wounds, poisons and breaks. Finally, as the moons shifted higher in the sky, they began to bury the dead and rest the injured.
Ria called for the vines with the two babies. She had been keeping an eye on them and they had slept through most of the pandemonium. Reaching out, she gently captured the sleeping munks, their sweet little faces so peaceful. She looked around for the father, but he was nowhere to be seen. Finally, as she wandered away from the main gathering, she found him. He had been missed when they tended to the injured.
He was curled up beside his mate, one of his hands resting on hers, the other pressed tightly to the wound in his chest.
Ria’s breath caught in her throat.
The munk’s chest rose and fell very lightly, but she could see the torn damage to his chest was too much for a recovery. Tears pricked at the corner of her eyes. She glanced down at the innocence in her arms, tiny little faces with brown fur so soft and silky. They were too young to remember their parents, to realize their entire worlds had been ripped apart.
“Ria, why do you hold these young?” Klea, who had been her shadow for most of the battle, spoke from behind her.
“Their parents were killed.” She pointed toward the fallen couple, and as she spoke the male took his last breath, his body relaxing into the stillness of death.
She shed a few more tears, her life water falling into the soil.
“Let us finish helping their recovery and then we will return to the sacred tree,” Ria said, turning away from the heart-wrenching scene.
She needed to speak with the tree spirits about the fringe. This had to stop now. Their ferocity was increasing, the carnage heartbreaking. It was Ria’s job to save her people, but she was making no inroads into stopping them. She just couldn’t understand why her plants hid these extremists from her.
“Queen.” A female munk stepped in front of her. “I am Aralet, sister to Ara.” She pointed to the still body of the little ones’ father. “I will take the children and raise them.”
She spoke bluntly but with respect. Ria knew that even if Ara had no blood relatives, someone from the pack would have cared for these two young. At that moment the elder of the two children held out its arms to Aralet, and Ria could see they knew each other. Leaning down, she laid a gentle kiss on top of their heads before she passed them across to their brethren.
“Care for them well,” she said, before turning to follow Klea.
They had many more hours work helping to salvage and rebuild the Mmunks’ territory. All of which had to be done before the red moon.

Ria was silent in her loft house, watching, waiting for the full crest of the red moon. The six smaller moons cast their shade of blue, but as the large red circle rose above the canopy, the world turned to purple. And at the peak of the red moon howls rang free. Ria threw back her head, savoring the spill of energy through her blood. It was rare that she ventured down to run with the packs. This was their time to be free and not feel their Queen was watching over their shoulders. But sometimes she wished to be pack. To lose all forms of civilized behavior for a short time.
“I have to go now.” Klea’s rough tone startled Ria.
She spun around to find the leon in mid transition. The skin was melting away to be replaced by fur and when Klea’s mouth finally lengthened into a muzzle she would no longer be able to speak.
Ria nodded. She knew Klea hated leaving her unguarded, but no pack member could ignore the call of the red moon. And she would be safe.
With a roar, Klea dropped to all fours and flung herself out of the doorway. Ria moved back to the edge of the trees, watching as her jungle came to life. The noise below was almost deafening.
Ria never slept the night of the red moon. The energy had her buzzing around her loft until the purple light faded and the large ball disappeared from the sky. The moment that the blue moons filled the sky, the packs quietened and proceeded to sleep off the night. Ria took advantage of this time, descending to the forest floor and moving freely through Artwon. She needed this moment to release her overload of energy. Each time power fizzling from her plants sprouted or burst to life. Large flowers bloomed, fruit blossomed, and she loved feeding her overflow back into nature.
During her run she’d never seen any living creatures, so an unexpected movement between two lanta trees had her grinding to a halt.
Pack members required at least twelve hours’ sleep after the red moon, so it could be none of them. Ria scanned the dense vines and trees as she wandered under the large brown trunks that formed the structure for the tangled venus vines.
There was no more movement, but she knew something had disturbed the land; she could feel the unease from the plants.
Deciding that whatever it was must be long gone, she was turning to continue her journey when he stepped out from between a section of large vines.
Ria gasped.
She knew this man.
Her mother had given her dreams of the father she’d never known. The father who was now standing before her.
She took an involuntary step forward, her eyes cataloguing every detail. He was much taller than she was, his hair the same silky brown color as her own, his skin much darker but still tawny. Ria had always known that her unusual eye color was from him, but his were even more dramatically set off by stunning purple square-shaped marks running along the right side of his face and neck.
Except for these marks, she was the female version of this man. Well, the marks and the ivy print in her hair, which was courtesy of her mother.
They examined each other. Ria could see the vines curling around his arms and legs, the same way they did when greeting her. And then as she continued to stare at him the marks disappeared off his face, as if they’d just melted into his skin. How had he done that?
“You are very impressive.” He finally spoke, his accent heavy and unfamiliar.
“What are you doing here?” Ria asked him.
“I have watched you for a long time. Your mother asked that I leave you alone.” His purple eyes flashed, reflecting off the blue moonlights. “But things are changing in the First World star system. It’s no longer safe, so I’m here to warn you.”
Ria’s unease grew, which had her plants wrapping tightly around her for comfort.
“Warn me about what?” she asked.
He held out a hand to her. “It would be better if I showed you.”
Ria hesitated. She knew nothing of him or his intentions. But despite this she found herself stepping forward and reaching out to place her smaller hand into his.
“Show me the threat to my people.”

Ria stared at the bunkers under the roots of the massive rairing tree, energy roaring inside her. She had the barest sliver of control over her anger.
Her father, whose name she had learnt was Nos, had shown her how the fringe had been evading her detection.
They wore the skins of the dead.
That was why when she scanned the forest for them they went undetected: the skin of all those they had killed surrounded their den like a large camouflage, and they also covered themselves in the skins. The deads’ fur gave off its own aura, hiding the living who wore it. And they had hundreds of furs, many more dead than she’d ever realized.
“As terrible as you may find this, I did not bring you here to mourn your dead.” Nos spoke quietly. “These nuisances are the gateway to something much worse that could spell the end of Artwon and Regali.”
He definitely had Ria’s attention now. She waited for him to continue, but he seemed content to sit beside her in the high branches. Patience was a skill she’d worked hard to develop in her many years, so for now she just continued to observe.
The fringe had numerous members. Hundreds came and went through the veil of dead.
Ria sat upright, her senses firing as a group emerged from the underground burrow. They weren’t pack. They looked like her, but short and sturdy, the dwarvin. She had heard of these creatures. They lived in the lands of the north; the flat plains.
“What are they doing here?” she muttered.
“War is coming to your doorstep, Ria. The fringe are gathering rebel factions from all corners of Regali. They plan on taking Artwon first.”
His words sent shockwaves of panic through her. There had never been war between the countries before. As a rule, everyone stuck to their own area.
“They could not have organized this on their own,” she said, knowing the fringe did not have the manpower or the resources.
The north men disappeared into the trees. She was tempted to send out her vines and steal back her dead brethren they wore, but she knew now wasn’t the time to tip them off.
“That is why I have come,” Nos said. “You have a Walker problem.”