Our apologies for yesterday. We saw the date and couldn’t resist. Here’s the real teaser excerpt, but first, a little intro…
Every night the monsters hunt.
A city that is the whole world: Theosophy and her companions in the City militia do their best to protect the civilians from the monsters, but they keep crawling from the Rift and there’s nowhere to run. Theosophy knows she’ll die fighting. It’s the best kind of death she’s seen, and at least she can save lives in the meantime.
They say the Scarred carve you up while you’re still alive.
A village in the shadow of a forest: Refugees from the border whisper about the oncoming Scarred, but Briony can’t convince her brother to relocate his children to safety. Briony will do anything to protect them. She owes them that much, even if it means turning to forbidden magic.
When Theosophy and Briony accidentally make contact across the boundaries of their worlds, they realize that solutions might finally be within reach. A world beyond the City would give Theosophy’s people an escape, and the City’s warriors could help Briony protect her family from the Scarred. Each woman sees in the other a strength she lacks—and maybe something more.
All they need to do is find a way across the dimensions to each other before their enemies close in.
Briony paused mid-step, realizing the forest was too quiet. Her heart jumped into her throat and she turned, expecting to find the masks of the Scarred lurking behind her, but all that was there was a deer.
She stared at it for a long moment, wondering at the dread that wormed its way through her. Then it hit her. The deer was much too close. A wild animal, especially a prey animal, would have given her a wide berth.
The deer blinked its wide eyes at her and flicked an ear, the perfect picture of innocence. Too perfect.
Briony took a slow step backward. The deer flicked the other ear. It seemed to tense. Briony took another step.
The deer laid both ears back and opened its chest, revealing two rows of finger-length sharp teeth. It roared, then charged.
“Oh, shit,” Briony said. She stumbled backward, turning to flee. But one leg didn’t move. She’d gotten too close to the nearest tree, and a tendril of vine had wrapped itself around her ankle.
It was only one tendril. Briony threw herself to one side, wrenching her ankle free just as the Fracture went through the space she’d just been in and smashed into the tree. Briony scrambled to her feet and ran. The Fracture righted itself and came crashing after her before the vine got its hold on it.
Old Ones, this was why she didn’t come into the forest without Poes. Now she was going to die out here because no one knew where she was, or even where to look, and she would just disappear, just like her mother.
Briony darted as close to the trees as she dared, hoping another vine would be able to grab the Fracture, but luck didn’t seem to be on her side. The creature bellowed behind her, never losing track of her no matter how she ducked and dodged.
This was not how she wanted to go. Her mother had warned her a million times to be aware of her surroundings when in the forest, that any Fracture could hide itself innocuously enough if one wasn’t looking. Is that what had happened to her? Had she gone into the forest that day and missed a warning that would have saved her life?
Briony slipped and fell, sliding under a bush. The Fracture soared by above, taking the bush with it. Briony pushed herself to her feet and took off the other way. There was another roar from behind her, and a second later the sound of hoofed feet followed after her again.
Jael and the children would never go if she couldn’t convince them to. She needed to stay alive for them.
The forest was a blur around her. She had no idea where she was, how far she’d come, and the Fracture was still back there. Why couldn’t the wretched thing tire out?
Ahead, the ground suddenly dropped out of sight. Briony couldn’t stop—wasn’t sure she wanted to if she could—and managed to throw herself across the gulley that had come out of nowhere.
She rolled on the other side and managed to regain her footing. She kept running, dodging and changing directions, blood pounding in her ears.
Nothing followed. Briony slowed hesitantly down, but the forest behind her was silent. She froze, not wanting to draw the Fracture’s attention back to her if it had lost her. Long minutes, perhaps forever, passed. Eventually a bird overhead starting singing, and Briony let herself relax.
Where was she? She turned in a circle, but nothing looked familiar. Briony took a deep breath. No panicking, not now. She might not know where she was, but she knew where she’d entered the forest and could read directions from the trees and the sky. That was something. Once she got west of the forest she would be in open land, even if she missed the town.
However, now that she’d stopped moving, one of her ankles had started to throb. From the choke vine, or at some point during her escape? It didn’t much matter now. She’d probably have to splint it either way.
Ahead, the trees thinned out. That would be a good place to try and get her bearings. Briony limped forward and discovered the shores of a massive lake that she’d never seen before.
That figured. Briony took one more look around, but the forest sounded normal and she was nowhere near any trees, so she risked taking off one boot. She sat down. The cold water of the lake helped soothe her ankle. For a long moment, she rested, letting the lake lap at her ankle and listening to the breeze.
Across the lake, there almost seemed to be the hint of something—a large building? A city?—but when Briony tried to focus on it, it faded away. She shook her head. Probably some sort of illusion caused by the water.
It was growing late and she would need to get out of the forest. She didn’t like to be out here after dark, especially without Poes. Reluctantly she replaced her boot and stood, testing her ankle. It would probably hold, for now.
What a mess. And she had no spells to try out any potential healing magic. And what if Kishan was right and it didn’t work? What then?
She closed her eyes. Please, she prayed to the Old Ones, as bad an idea as that might be, please, I just need some magic to save my family.
“What the fuck?” said a voice from behind her. There was an accent to it. When Briony turned, she found herself looking at a strange, ethereal woman who glowed blue in the fading sunlight. Briony’s breath caught in her throat. A spirit, Old Ones, a spirit. She hadn’t even considered spirit talking in her magic list—it was said the spirits couldn’t be trusted, and that people who consorted with them sought forbidden knowledge to sow evil and mayhem—but it was a sign of magic within her somewhere, and maybe she could use that to transition to something the Academy would accept.
The spirit was beautiful, a tall, statuesque woman who had a hard glint in her eyes. Her hair was short, indigo blue through the glow and tightly curled, her skin a lighter shade over wiry muscles. One hand clenched a smallish item made of metal, the other a long tube with some kind of blade on the end. Briony had never seen anyone like her. Though she glanced around and held her body like someone expecting danger, her bearing was proud and strong, and every inch of her spoke of power and competency. A warrior. Briony had heard stories of them, left over from the Great War, but had never seen one herself.
Was that when this woman was from? The War?
“My trio—the monsters—where am I?”
Briony realized she hadn’t responded, and that perhaps this spirit had been looking for someone to talk to for a very long time, and maybe she would assume Briony couldn’t see or hear her, either. “Don’t be afraid,” she said.
“Afraid?” the spirit echoed. “Should I be?”
“Well,” Briony started, taking a step forward. But her ankle buckled and she stumbled, managing to catch herself before she fell.
“You’re injured,” said the spirit. “Were you attacked?”
“Yes—you see, there was a Fracture back there, and—” Confusion crossed the spirit’s face. Maybe she was even older; maybe she didn’t know about the War. “There was a war, many generations ago, and the Old Ones, though I don’t know if it was ours or theirs or both, created creatures and plants that looked normal but weren’t. Fractures. Because they…fractured some part of the creature. I don’t know.” Briony was aware she was not being clear, though the woman just watched her curiously. “Anyway. There were these people—they were supposed to save us. But they abandoned us and left us on our own. And we drove off the other side—the Scarred—eventually, but we couldn’t get rid of the Fractures. If that makes any sense.”
“A Fracture is…a monster?” the spirit asked. The idea seemed to mean something to her, though Briony could not imagine what.
“Yes, you could say that.” Briony ran one hand through her hair, feeling useless and plain next to the spirit’s poise. “I’m Briony, by the way, or Bree, if you like. I live in a town nearby. Westenaedre. Do you live here, in the forest?”
The spirit looked around, gazing at the trees as if she’d never seen them before. The lake also seemed to be something of interest. “It’s so open and free,” she said, so low Briony was not sure she heard correctly.
The woman looked at her again, apparently coming to some decision. “I’m Theosophy,” she said after a moment. “You may call me Theo.”
“Theosophy,” Briony echoed, rolling the name over her tongue. It sounded strange and beautiful, just like the spirit. “I’d like to help you, if I can. Is there something you need?”
The spirit seemed surprised. For a long moment, she stared at Briony. Then she lifted the hand with the smallish piece of metal, as if to offer it to Briony. “Yes, I—”
And just like that, she was gone.
The gathering darkness was more obvious without her glow. Briony felt oddly bereft at her loss, but also jittery. She had spoken with a spirit! And without a spell or anything. Maybe there was hope for this magic plan yet.
As long as no one caught wind of the fact she was spirit talking. Not even Jael or Kishan would be able to save her then.
City of Hope and Ruin will be available from Amazon in print and ebook in May. You can pre-order the ebook version, which would be a great help if you’re so inclined, because all pre-orders count towards our all-important first-day sales numbers.
While you’re waiting, here’s a peek at our Pinterest board for the book. And please share any and all links far and wide…we will be eternally grateful!