Here is a teaser for my upcoming Young Adult Fantasy novel Insidious Whispers. I am excited to say that this collaboration piece with Vincent F. A. Golphin should be launched in the fall of 2016.
Flashes of Fire
Queen Victarine’s Advisor
I knew the fire was coming. The vision is in my mind’s eye. The impending burst of noise, smoke and flame unfolded behind my eyes in a sudden horrific flash. The wall of heat and fire in my head blinded me again for a moment as I hurried down a narrow Severen alley. The premonition made me stagger on the uneven, rocky ground. I almost fell. I tried to move along as if nothing happened. The vision’s effect was too strong.
I am Lady Kulipa, a Delphyte and Queen Victarine’s advisor. I am generated as unformed energy within The Whole of the Delphyte Realm. I was pure spirit. Twelve years ago, my energy was converted into the form of a humanoid Caligan woman. This flesh I inhabit is real, and fully grown, but fragile. It places me at the risk of pain and death. In the Delphyte Realm, I was immortal and nearly unchanged. To serve the queen, I must grow through the normal life cycle toward the decay. I accepted the sacrifice, yet my throbbing head almost makes me regret it. In my original pure energy form my Premonition gift would not cause me pain.
My fingers groped along the rough cobblestone walls to find balance until my sight cleared. I tried to steady my jagged breathing. My heart raced. I looked and acted like someone stricken with a heart attack. The foresight of the upcoming deaths of my traveling companions deeply frightens me. I am anxious to think I might not be able to warn them in time. The explosion is imminent.
My strength began to return. My mind cleared. My senses are now restored. I am in the entourage tasked to escort Queen Victarine’s sister, Princess Stipinia, to bond with a Delphyte advisor. I am wary of the things I saw in that vision, yet my devotion to Stipinia’s older sister, and love for Palandara’s peoples, makes me risk my life to take the princess safely to Severen for The Conjuring and then back to the palace in Shar upon its completion.
Most people in the Material World know little of a Delphyte’s abilities, even those who we advise. The only way an outsider might even notice how many gifts a Delphyte holds is to look at the leaves on spider-like vine on the wrist. On the inner right, my vine holds three leaves. One is Premonition, the ability to sense the future. Mindspeak is the second. Although not fully developed, it allows me to read another’s thoughts, or plant mine into their consciousness. I am uncertain about the third gift. The knowledge will come. I am vowed to use my three gifts to guide the queen for the planet’s welfare. The number of gifts varies among Delphytes. Allegra, the greatest among us, has ten.
I am uncertain of many things about this mission. The senior Delphyte, Grinnell, counselor to the late Queen Pala, and I agreed that the journey demanded caution, although neither of us could pinpoint a specific reason. Something was not right.
Grinnell and the queen want the princess to bond. I am not certain the girl is ready. I am uncertain that she can rule. Stipinia is selfish, headstrong and rebellious. I do not understand her aversion to taking her rightful place as heir apparent to the throne. She does not understand why the responsibility must be on her shoulders. I find the measures that had to be taken to convince the princess to come on this trip to be ludicrous. She has spent the entire journey sulking and complaining. It is not my place to say, but from what I have seen, the girl lacks what it takes to govern herself much less lead a world.
I apprehensively whip my head around to see if I have been observed. The shadow filled alleyway holds no one but me. The windows are dark and empty. It is eerily quiet. Severen sleeps.
I look down to the foot of the uneven stone stairs. There is no fire, yet. I see our tranden, a coach in the shape and size of a small sailing ship containing our entourage consisting of Lady Grinnell, Onamorg, the protector, Princess Stipinia, and my aide, Dray the Charlok. It is positioned in this obscure location to facilitate a swift and clandestine departure. Precaution forced the usual opulent and ornately decorated royal tranden to be substituted for a plain and functional transport. Grinnell insisted that we would face an unseen danger. My premonition seems to prove her correct.
King Treanon originally dismissed our concern. Victarine intervened and approved our cautionary measures. We traveled back roads through Coopersfeld Parish. We did not enter Severen by the main gates with the expected fanfare. Our way wended through Lenden Forest. We came through a passage normally tread by hunters and traders.
My premonition has caused me to realize that we are in much more grave danger than we had first thought.
Grinnell had sent me ahead on foot to scout the Place of Conjuring because for some reason her gift of Transport was rendered useless to bring us there. Her far-reaching gift of Mindspeak also could not sense the inner activity of those who waited in the portal. This was very odd indeed.
When I had neared the portal to the Place of Conjuring between the material and spiritual worlds, my senses had not been able to penetrate the passage either. My Mindspeak sensed nothing. The very emptiness made me shiver. I could not perceive any thoughts. The situation was as if an invisible, impenetrable bubble were over the Place of Conjuring.
As I approached the entrance I suddenly felt warm, really warm. That’s when I first experienced the premonition. My consciousness felt our tranden exploding into flames. I fell to my knees. I was stunned. All of the occupants were about to go up in flames if I didn’t act.
After I was able to compose myself, I jumped up and rushed back to warn my travel companions.
Now, as I stood gazing at our vehicle trying to determine my next course of action, I saw movement in the rear of the tranden. It was the furry, gray figure of Dray. The psychic animal attempted to huddle beneath a crimson blanket. He knew something bad was going to happen. I am certain, because Charloks are not only excellent at tracking, but often have a mild sense of premonition. My first inclination was to run to the tranden and urge everyone to get out immediately. But my Delphyte senses stopped me.
I began to feel a warm tingle in my hands and feet. It was coming. I must act! There was another way. I stood there in the shadows and breathed out steadily. I pulled my thoughts from the sides and centered them. I stared hard at the unassuming tranden, and etched its details in my mind. I froze the image there and held it while I probed inside to find Grinnell. She acknowledged my presence immediately. Our minds clasped.
Grinnell! My thoughts screamed. Get everyone out! There are explosives on the tranden!
Understood, was her calm reply, and the link was swiftly broken. I gasped at the sudden release. There was no time for discussion. Instant action was needed. I would have to rely on Grinnell to do what she could.
I placed both of my hands on either side of the narrow passageway, and let the coolness of the rock seep into them. I could feel the heat of the impending fire moving through my arms and legs. My gaze was fixed on the threatened vehicle. I felt helpless. I searched my senses for the next direction. My path lay empty. I was devoid of impulse, except for the foreboding of imminent disaster. All of my Delphyte instincts screamed to keep my distance. Running to aid the tranden would not help the occupants. It would only mean my demise as well. I breathed unevenly. The heat in my extremities flowed to my center.
The tranden suddenly exploded in a great wall of green and yellow flames. I was thrown to the rocky ground from the impact. I instantly felt Onamorg’s death. It was like when the premonition struck, only more real, more hurtful. I struggled to a sitting position and shielded my eyes. I strained to see more clearly, but the flames raged and recoiled. The fire threw sparks into the twilight sky.
Find Stipinia, Grinnell’s voice sliced into my consciousness. The inn.
I clutched my hands to my bruised mouth to stifle a cry. I watched the green in the fire consolidate. It was the essence of what was once Grinnell, my mentor. The foggy shape shot high above, arced, then melted into nothingness. Her link with my mind, the sense of her within my being shuddered and became blank.
My grimy hands moved from my mouth to cover my face. I pressed fiercely at my senses to feel her life spirit. Grinnell was gone. In human form, she suffered a fate that few Delphytes experience. Grinnell was destroyed in the flames along with Onamorg and Dray. I choked on the pain that rose in my throat. I wanted to scream to let loose the anguish that seared me.
I realized I had never really been alone. Grinnell spoiled me, really, when it came to guidance. She was like a mother. Delphytes do not have mothers, but I have lived among Caligans long enough to appreciate the concept.
I did not have time for the luxury of sorrow and inaction. Before her death, the senior Delphyte used her gifts to transport Stipinia away from harm. She tasked me to find her.
All had gone awry. The death of my companions hung on me like a dark cloak. Questions gnawed at my mind.
Why had this happened?
Who would have done such a thing?
Why hadn’t either of us Delphytes sensed more than just the need for caution?
I wrestled briefly with those queries, but my mind felt uncharacteristically sluggish. I snapped my attention to the urgency of my situation. Time was wasting.
I must somehow get a message to Victarine and find Stipinia, I said to myself. Extreme caution is required. I do not know our enemy. For the first time in my existence I feel scared and very alone.
I would have to rely on my own wits and senses to get Stipinia back to Shar. Grinnell, Onamarg and Dray are lost. The mission has failed. It would take a lot more than cleverness to get out of this.