Excerpt from The Demon Shroud
Ahoy Fellow Creatures!
Do I have a special treat for you today! T.A. Miles, author of the Celestial Empire Series, has shared an excerpt of her new novel, The Demon Shroud.
Releasing on September 1st for 99c from Raventide Books, this gothic horror fantasy novel promises to delight fans of Castlevania and the Witcher, both series I love and that have influenced my own work heavily. I am thrilled to be able to share a bit of the work. I know that you creatures will love it as much as I do.
So with out further ado, take a look below. I hope you'll check out the whole story come September 1st at Raventide Books!
“I apologize, if I startled you,” Chief Constable Guidry said. It was the third apology the man had offered since he and Korsten encountered one another.
Korsten looked reflexively to his wrist, and saw no damage, though the man’s grip had been alarmingly hard. “There was no harm done,” he said. And now, Korsten wanted to know, “Did you see that man?”
Korsten looked to the final gate between the manor and the town, to be certain that the rider was indeed no longer there. The coincidence of the rider’s appearance and subsequent vanishing was not lost on him. He observed the constable with great care to what may have been hidden beneath his skin. The conversation taking place in total silence, ringing in Korsten’s blood, suggested that there was some manner of untruth before him. Whether it was the man’s words, his manner, or his very being, Korsten understood that Guidry’s presentation was false and dangerous
“It may have been no one,” Korsten finally said. “Pay it no mind, for now.”
The elderly man either agreed or disagreed in silence. Whether he was accomplice or victim to the Vadryn was presently unknown. Either would lead to a confrontation, but the nature of it relied upon Guidry’s state.
Korsten asked, “Why were you returning to the house?”
“To tell you that you should speak with Ergen’s wife, and to learn whether or not you and your partner had come back from the crest,” Guidry replied, and Korsten could detect that the answer was not untrue. Still, that didn’t mean that the man’s answer was entirely truthful.
“I’m afraid there’s a matter of some tragedy that needs to be discussed,” Korsten began.
Guidry didn’t require of him to finish. “Thaylen’s died, hasn’t he?”
The note of misery that pressed into Korsten’s senses inspired him to pay the elder an expression of sympathy. It was a reflex, even knowing that if a demon was present or controlling the man, it would only be accessing Guidry’s sentiments, not feeling them.
“Yes,” he said to the constable.
Guidry nodded. “The illness?”
It was dangerous to disrupt the Vadryn when they were attempting to be charming, or to present themselves as a normal person. It was equally dangerous to allow idle conversation to carry on. Korsten collected the words with care.
“Constable Guidry… I’m sorry to tell you that we discovered the bodies on our return from the crest, during the dark hours of the morning.”
The man’s aged eyes searched visibly for more information, or perhaps for some confirmation as to just how much information Korsten may have had.
“It was not illness,” Korsten continued. “And…you know that.”
While Korsten watched Guidry, the sensation of disease seeped further into the air around him. He witnessed the appearance of the horse and its rider putrefy in front of him, features taking on bruises, drawing gaunt and sinking into their bones.
The horse turned its head, too quickly, and Korsten gave the emaciated-looking creature a firm kick while jerking the reins to move Onyx away from it.
Onyx became alert to the reality of the situation just after Korsten, and was already in motion, but Korsten was not to go far with his mount. Guidry launched his suddenly ghoulish form out of the saddle, and Korsten toppled from his own as the constable collided into him.
The moment he struck the earth, Korsten shifted his weight to compensate, and wound up in a brief tumble with the ghoul. His momentum was not enough to leave him with the advantage when they came to a stop, and he found himself beneath the ravenous elder. A glimpse of feral eyes preceded a view of elongated teeth.
Instinct put Korsten’s hand beneath the ghoul’s jaw. Swift thinking enabled him to manifest his sword. The simple formation of the blade spiked through the creature’s skull, piercing the contaminated mind and quieting its restlessness. In the very instant the body was going limp, Korsten threw it off him, reclaiming his blade in the process.
Afterward, he rolled in the opposite direction and righted himself. There was a moment of pause to allow the belated shock to run its course, and to allow some remorse for the death itself.
“Gods,” he breathed. And then, “Onyx!”
He heard hooves trod upon the ground in answer, but the gait was not that of a healthy animal.
Korsten stood, discerned which direction the footfall was coming from, and turned to face it. The afflicted animal did not move swiftly, but stalked through the haze, its form drawing to detail slowly. The ears swiveled in an almost calculated fashion while it approached. Eyes striated with yellow and black gave a menacing look and it tossed its mane in agitation.
Korsten dropped his blade when he was shown the long teeth, tipped with blackened and sharp edges. When it charged, he cast a Barrier. A veil of light manifested between Korsten and the horse. Even bracing himself for it, Korsten was thrown back when the immense weight of the creature impacted, but he kept the Barrier between himself and the beast. He strained to maintain the shield’s potency, ensuring that the ghoul did not break through, even as the initial collision seemed to break its neck. Korsten held the Barrier in place until the horse was fully on the ground and there was no further risk of it moving again. Even so, he hesitated to lower the spell.
When he finally did, he rose to his feet once more, summoned his blade back to him, and called out to Onyx. The sword came first, shapeless and as liquid energy. Korsten formed it into a ball before it arrived and caught it, then absorbed the magic into his palm while he waited for Onyx.
That's it for now! I hope you enjoyed this special post.