by Emily-Jane Hills Orford
GENRE: fantasy/science fiction
Priya, a name that suggests beautiful. Amell, a name that suggests all powerful. One is a beautiful young lady; the other a beast. Their paths have crossed before, only Priya doesn’t remember Amell from her past. Or does she? And what does it all mean? The Amell she meets is part beast. So are the others at Castle Mutasim. Is she one of them, too? How can this be? What manner of creature would experiment on other living creatures, to mutate them into something bizarre and, sometimes, downright dangerous? Priya has to know. She wants to know. And she wants to make things right.
“Wait!” she called out in vain, but it was too late. Her escorts had vanished. She was alone. In the forest. With a strange creature trekking ever closer. She could hear the crunching of underbrush. Was it Roderick? Wayne? Or the unknown? D’Sonoqua? “Wait!” She stood frozen in place. Unable to move. Her weeks of training useless, for here, in the moment of urgency, she couldn’t think of what to do. Mind freeze! Lifting her head slowly, she let out a wail of frustration, the volume of her voice matching the creature in pursuit. The crashing was mere feet away and yet, still, she saw nothing but the forest. The trees. The shrubs. The annoying vines and fallen branches which threatened, and did, trip her. Again.
And, finally, she knew what to do. She ran. There wasn’t room enough to spread her wings and fly. At least, she didn’t think so. Jumping to the lowest tree branch, she used her chimpanzee prowess to grab hold and swing. She gained momentum in the swaying motion and swung herself to the next branch. A little higher this time. A little lower the next. Until she found herself facing a long stretch of sand and gravel and the wide, open waters beyond.
The beach. They had been headed toward the beach. The ancient village had stood along this stretch. Nothing remained. Only sand. Gravel. And the flapping waves lapping against the shoreline.
She swung once more and landed in a thick, soft patch of sand. The crunching was still close. Behind her. All around her. It echoed in the open spaces. Was this a test? Had Roderick and Wayne been set up to abandon her here? To test her abilities? She didn’t have time to ponder the possibility. An ear-piercing shriek, mere feet behind, made her jump and set off in a burst of momentum. She ran toward the water and splashed in the incoming tide, leaving a sloshing sound in her wake as she plundered ever forward.
But the creature, whatever it was, continued its pursuit. She was the prize. The victim. And, before the beach ended, she felt something grab her firmly, swinging her body in a circular motion as a parent might spin a child for pleasure. Only this wasn’t pleasure. And she was being swung much higher, much faster, until with a single toss she landed wrapped around a furry set of shoulders, hands and feet firmly gripped. She tried to resist. No use. The grip was too tight. She tried to scream, but only earned a mouthful of rancid, fowl-smelling fur which made her gag.
The creature roared. Shrieked. Roared some more. And ran. The motion was jolting. Jarring. Priya bounced relentlessly, her body repeatedly bruised with each new contact it made with the creature as the two plunged back into the forest. As branches chortled against the two, Priya sought refuge by burying her head in the furry shoulder, breathing gently so as not to gag further at the stench. It was either that or have her head scraped to shreds by resisting tree appendages.
They tore deeper into the forest, up and down inclines until finally the creature stopped. Abruptly. Dropping Priya roughly to the ground.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Emily-Jane Hills Orford is a country writer, living just outside the tiny community of North Gower, Ontario, near the nation’s capital. With degrees in art history, music and Canadian studies, the retired music teacher enjoys the quiet nature of her country home and the inspiration of working at her antique Jane Austen-style spinet desk, feeling quite complete as she writes and stares out the large picture window at the birds and the forest. She writes in several genres, including creative nonfiction, memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction. http://emilyjanebooks.ca
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