Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Snippet Day the Third

Greetings! Looks like it's Wednesday again, which means it's snippet time again. I had hoped to be a little further along with Nightmare Moon at this point, but life finds ways to interfere. Nonetheless, I'm writing more (and more regularly) than I have for a very long time, and I'm pleased with that.

So onto the snippet!


Yesterday the gardens had felt unnaturally still. Now they were simply alien. It wasn't just the noise and the winter wind, but the sense that she was running into another world, one where humans weren't welcome. The shadows were too dark, the branches snatched at her as she ran, and the ground felt treacherous and uneven beneath her feet. She tried to ignore it all, pulled on by an instinct she didn't recognise but couldn't disobey.
            She ran to the cottage, bloodied hand prints and claw marks imprinted on her mind's eye. The wind was freezing, cutting through her summer clothes and sinking into her skin. Her bare feet were already numb. She let the fire flare, not enough to spill from her body, but enough to fight off the chill. She wished she could deal with the buzzing so easily. It bounced off the trees and and filled the air until Scarlett wanted to scream to try to drown it out.
            The neon yellow of the police tape glowed in the darkness, acting like a beacon. Scarlett stumbled on something twisted and thorny as she reached it. She lost her footing and fell before she could catch herself, landing in a flowerbed and getting a faceful of roses. She swore as she rolled out of the crushed flowers, feeling more thorns rip through her sleeves and scratch at her skin. The wind rushed over her as she got to her knees, knotting her hair and whipping it into her face.
            She clawed her hair out of her eyes and saw a figure standing over her.
            She had a second to register its pale green eyes glowing in a cadaverous face, then it swiped at her with long, slicing nails. She threw herself back into the flowerbed, barely dodging the creature's attack. She heard it move towards and she scrambled backwards through the rose bushes, catching a million tiny stings and cuts as she did. She didn't feel them. It was too cold now. The creature moved in a cloud of ice crystals, breath fogging the air until she could barely see it. Only its eyes gave it away, shining fever-bright through the fog.
            Shivering so hard her teeth chattered, Scarlett called the fire and flung it. Any fear she had of what it might cost her later was completely overridden by fear of the thing looming over her right now.
            Her fireball crashed into the creature and she saw it illuminated for a split-second; pale skin like diseased bark, stretched tight over prominent bones. A face that might have been human, once. Then it was gone as the creature shrieked in pain and rage. It staggered back, flames licking up its bony chest. She expected it to counter-attack like the New Orleans demon, but this thing ran, spinning round and tearing from the gardens, trailing red-hot embers in its wake. In seconds it had vanished and the wind dropped just as fast, leaving Scarlett alone in a ruined flowerbed in the sticky, humid dusk.
            Even so, she didn't dare pick herself up until the last smouldering leaves had died and there was no trace of either fire or ice left in the garden. Then, when she was sure the creature wasn't going to come rushing back, she picked herself up with a wince. She was covered in cuts and bruises, not to mention dirt and flowers. Still, could have been a lot worse. She swallowed hard, tasting vomit in the back of her throat.
            She walked back to the house feeling ever-so-slightly detached from reality. She didn't want to cry and puke like she had after New Orleans, but she had a funny feeling that might come when the numbness wore off. That creature had killed Amelia. She was sure of it, and the surety was like a wash of icy water, rinsing away every other emotion she ought to have.
            So that changed things.
            Scarlett had always believe that when she used the fire, the Tawny Man reached for her. The two had always gone hand-in-hand when she was younger; the fire would escape because she was panicked or angry, and then he would come to her dreams. And the dreams left her panicked and angry and so the fire escaped again, and on and on in a vicious cycle that driven her half-mad.
            Her last night in Erasmus House, she'd seen a demon and lost control. Or had she lost control and seen a demon? She didn't know. Couldn't remember. That night was a blur of flames, smoke, and screams, and the way things had happened were lost to her. But she had seen a demon and she had lost control. And she had thought, once again, that she was the reason they came. The fire was lodestar for the Tawny Man and the creatures of his world, and as long as she controlled the fire, she would be safe.
            But that wasn't true, was it? She hadn't used the fire in New Orleans, not before the alleyway demon appeared or before Grunt crashed into her lap. And the creature that killed Amelia...
            Scarlett raked her hands through her hair, tormented by the images careening through her head. Amelia wouldn't have stood a chance. Those nails...Scarlett could see them gliding through flesh, scooping out bones and guts. You wouldn't even have time to scream.
            She choked, and ran for the house. Grunt sat in the doorway, scolding her loudly. She shot past him and into the parlour. She wanted alcohol. She wanted it like she'd never wanted it in her life, and she wanted as much of it as she could get. She wanted blackouts and oblivion and she wanted it fast.
            And the liqueur cabinet was empty.
            “Fuck!” She kicked out – then pulled back before her foot connected with the cabinet. Flames spat around her feet. She'd left ashy scorch marks in the thick carpet and if she hit the cabinet, it would probably just explode in her face.
            “Fuck,” she said again, dropping to the carpet and drawing her knees in tight against her chest. She quelled the flames, the craving for alcohol fading with the fire. Numbness settled neatly back in. She stared at her muddy, bloody feet and wondered what Amelia would say if she saw the state of her.
            Grunt snuck up to her, sniffed her feet and sneezed, wrinkling his face. She reached out to tap his nose. “I can do better than this,” she told him. “I've been doing better than this for years. What's wrong with me?”
            Since the night she left Erasmus House, she hadn't lost control. Her moods affected the fire, but she'd never lost her grip on it the way she was now. Shock? Maybe. The return of the Tawny Man and all...this...well. Demons in the streets, demons at her feet, demons in the garden...well.
            Who wouldn't be shocked?
            She couldn't afford to be shocked, though. That creature had come before and it would come again, and whatever was drawing it here, it wasn't Scarlett and her flaming feet.


  1. Another great post! :) Love the trek through the woods. :)

  2. Its been great fun reading all these snippets back to back, especially after having head the version you gave me a while back. You do a great job interlacing your characters with their setting (plus great world building throughout what I've rad so far), using both to inform one another really nicely. :)