From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Vincent comes a richly imagined, provocative new series set in the dark mythology of the Menagerie…
When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus black-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she’s forced to “perform” in town after town.
But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other “attractions”—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she’ll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed.
Renowned author Rachel Vincent weaves an intoxicating blend of carnival magic and startling humanity in this intricately woven and powerful tale.
SideNote: I highly recommend this book. About as good as it gets. We read stories about good guys and bad guys, the right and wrong sides, them and us. This story flips everything you know upside down. We get to see through eyes rarely noticed, into the very heart and soul of what it means to be human- even if we are more than human.
It’s been awhile, I know, but believe it or not, the ending of the Valerian Cycle is nearing its end. Finally, the story of Phillip, Theo and Kaelynn will be told, in all its awful, amazing, incredible, glory. Will Theo’s throne be won or lost? Will Nostalgia be returned to history, or will an entire people be lost to the winds of war and the whims of time? Will Theo’s dog, Thumper, ever be revealed…
Only time will tell…
Until that time, however, here is Chapter One of the Final Gathering. Hope you enjoy! As always, I am open to suggestions, comments, or even feelings…
(Advanced Readers Copy- Non-edited)
Absolutely no clue what to do next. Open to suggestions.
The apartment was as dark as sin when we slipped in. Maggie went first as her eyes were the best- that and she still carried that otherworldly glow from the park and the battle which helped the rest of us escape- Dad went in next, followed by me and then Kaelynn.
We tried our best to be quiet.
Thinking of church mice here…
Beyond the sliding glass doors of my father’s apartment the world seemed to be on fire. Sirens wailed throughout the city like a million angels mourning the death of the world, choppers chopped and ambulances careened. The absolute definition of chaos if you ask me, pure and simple, and the closer one went towards Central Park, the epicenter of tonight’s events, the more chaotic and crowded the world became.
Also, so much deeper the darkness.
In the ensuing chaos following the final battle, my dad’s return and our frustration and despair at finding Belvedere Castles remaining gateway vandalized and beyond repair, we’d managed to evade New York’s finest by winding our way down darkened alleys and deserted city streets, past flying fire trucks filled with lights, bells and voices, and a night air filled with smoke and red/blue strobe lights. When we reached Dad and Kaelynn’s apartment, the doorman let us in with little more than a glance and mumbled ‘Hello’, even as he strained his neck south towards the epicenter of mayhem and madness.
Central Park, or at least its closest approximation.
“Have you seen what’s going on,” he asked, neck on a swivel.
Needless to say we ignored him and went on inside. After all, he really didn’t need to ask what was going on, all he had to do was lean out and see. The middle of 42nd street burned as bright as a funeral pyre, still, partly from the explosion and collapse of Leo’s and half the block it seemed, and partly from what seemed like the entire New York Police and Fire Department vehicles all lined up and waiting to arrive at the scene. Near Leo’s, emergency crews were still scrambling to pick through the wreckage and debris, putting out stubborn fires and the occasional re-flare, while still combing for bodies and such.
It would take a while. A long while.
As for Central Park, I could only imagine. To put it succinctly, much had been lost in the aftermath of the world’s first and only violent magical terrorist attack.
Before entering the apartment, Dad and Kaelynn had stopped to look intently upon their next door neighbor’s door- what had once been Aaron’s apartment. Their giant friend had perished in the park defending Kaelynn from marauding shadow mastiff’s. This made me wonder, who would watch his giant television set now? Buy the latest in technology?
Speaking of perished, Lycan, dads proverbial Benedict Arnold, and Fallon his body guard- as well as the man with the silver singing spurs and my entire reason for coming here- to exact my revenge -had also been lost in the battle, but who was really counting?
The apartment was as quiet and warm as a tomb, and at the moment just as dark. Dad mentioned we should leave the lights off, especially after Kaelynn had filled him in on Aaron’s apartment and Hitchcock’s attack of the birds.
Along the south wall, the sliding glass doors, blinds currently drawn, managed to mute most of the flashing lights and chaos that was downtown. In the ensuing silence, Dad’s tick-tock wall clock sounded like Big Ben.
It was a little past three in the morning of a very long and eventful night. Not nearly as eventful as Dad’s and Kaelynn, though.
Dad had died, Kaelynn had fallen down a rabbit’s hole.
Funny, how quickly life can change. One minute you’re wondering if your favorite TV show will be on tonight, or pre-empted for the game, the next, you’re fighting for your life and the lives around you, in the middle of Central Park.
Once inside, and after Maggie had taken a quick look around, Kaelynn had closed and dead-bolted the front door, sagging against it afterwards like all the life had been drained out of her. “Finally,” she said, her voice sounding broken and haggard. “We’re alone and home.”
Dad, careful as always, went from room to room double-checking the windows and doors, even after Maggie had inspected them.
Can’t say that I blame him. Dying and being brought back to life was bound to make a person just a wee bit paranoid.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” It was Maggie, once more my best friend, all signs of her ‘fallen angel’ persona gone. Just a simple girl asking a simple guy she cared about, if he was okay. Steel shone in her eyes, had since the park.
She was one tough cookie.
Maggie’s hand gripped mine as she stared into my eyes. I tried my best to smile back, failed, so instead nodded in return.
In the back of my mind all I could see was Dad dying over and over again, his eyes going wide as Blair’s dagger plunged in again and –
“I’m fine,” I said. “Besides, I should be asking you the same question. You look like someone whose been in a cat fight in the middle of a sticker bush.” She was literally covered in scratches and cuts. “Besides, it was you who took on the… whatever Neit was, and survived.” Barely…
At the sound of the dark demon’s name Maggie winced. I leaned in and pressed my forehead against hers, breathing in her scent. “Sorry,” I said.
In this instance, it was obviously too soon.
About that time Dad returned to the living room, taking the stairs from their bedroom two at a time, his eyes as wary as ever. His shirt, still splotched with crusty dried blood, stuck to him in all the places Blair’s dagger had stabbed him.
I turned away.
“We can’t stay for too long,” he said, “we need to get out of here.” His eyes flickered towards the windows and door, again.
Behind me, Kaelynn sagged to the floor, head in her hands. “They’re locked,” she said, sounding defeated. She was as pale as newly fallen snow, of which, there was plenty outside. Though it had stopped around midnight.
As he started to say something, Maggie reached out and gripped his arm. “Surely we can stay for a moment.” Her eyes said more, however. They said we all needed a break.
“Perhaps that would be best,” he said, the tick at the corner of his left eye dancing. He may be saying it, but he sure wasn’t thinking it.
With a gentleness I hadn’t seen in quite a while, he guided Kaelynn over to the couch where they sat down. Maggie took up her station by the front door, arms crossed, back straight, while I sat down across from my dad.
We’d all removed our winter garb, at least for the moment.
Which brings us full circle to what I’d said at the beginning, ‘What the hell do we do now?’
“I have no idea,” answered my dad.
“Shouldn’t they be done with us,” I asked, “after all, they essentially won. I didn’t get you back home before midnight.”
“And why exactly is that relevant,” Kaelynn asked. “The midnight thing, that is?”
“We need to formulate a plane,” barked Maggie, wringing her hands.
“Not sure exactly, you’d have to ask Phillip. He’s the one who told me about the deadline.”
“I’m loath to say they’ve won either way.”
“We are so screwed…”
As you can see, there were about a thousand conversations going on, none of them making much sense.
“Time out,” said dad, holding up his hands. By this time Kaelynn had gotten up, gone over to the refridge and gotten each of us a bottle of Da’Nasty water. Nasty or not, it sure tasted good. Other than the sirens going on outside, and the dull thump of helicopters, the apartment complex seemed pretty much asleep- what we should have been. “We’re not going to get anywhere with a hundred separate conversations going on. One at a time, okay?”
There he was looking all serious. Not anything like he’d been dead just awhile before.
“At least the son-of-a-bitch responsible is dead,” I said. “And his conspirator gone.” I was meaning Fallon and Lycan, of course, the Black Magister and his silver-singing spur wearing friend. With that being said however, I looked a lot more joyful on the outside then what I felt on the inside.
Dad seemed to sense it as well. I could see the disapproval in his eyes, thankfully, he let it stay there. In my opinion, I just had to say it- even if it still didn’t feel like victory. Father getting killed by Blair on Umpire Rock had wrecked all that, even if he had returned.
“Say what you will about Lycan,” Dad intoned, “in his mind he was doing what he thought to be right. He was also following my orders.”
“Did that include betrayal?” I asked. “You can defend him all you want. But still, in the end, Mom and Sis are dead pretty much because of him. Don’t forget that, either.”
The silence after my words weighed a ton.
“I don’t even know where to begin,” muttered Kaelynn, almost under her breath.
“What did you say, hun?” asked dad.
“I said, I don’t even know where to begin. Even now, it all seems like some sort of bad dream, or a nightmare.” And with that she launched into what I feel, even now, to be the most extraordinary story I’d ever heard.
At the very least, we should have had hot cocoa with marshmallows.
At the moment I am working with an amazing artist named Holland Reynolds. In the midst of putting together an illustrated Gathering of Darkness Paperback which I hope to have available Fall 2015, so keep your eyes open. Until then hope you enjoy.
Originally posted on The Way Station:
Picture of a boy rescuing his sister from their bombed house in Syria!
When I see this picture I get it- what Jesus was trying to say all that time when he walked and talked to all those people. I get what he’s trying to say even today.
I understand what he sees when he looks at us. I know why he wept…
I understand how fragile life is, our lives- the lives of one another. If we could see each other as this brother and sister see each other, there would be no more war, no more aggression, no more hate against each other- there would be only love, only grace, only forgiveness.
How can we hate when we were created to love? How can we turn our back on one another, when we were meant to reach out and hold? How can we cause or do or bring…
View original 41 more words
A New Chapter- A new day…
I figured my job at the moment was to stay put. Concentrate on the here and now and don’t think about anything else. Because I needed to remain here, in this exact place, if I was ever going to figure out exactly where and when, here and now was.
The asphalt underfoot, long faded to a watery gray by endless summer suns, reflected heat like a blow torch, heat that radiated upwards through my shoes (a pair of brown canvas hiking boots) like a blast furnace, searing the air and making my eyes water.
Assuming that over my shoulder meant the direction I’d just come from; then straight ahead must be the direction I need to be going. (How’s that for logic.)
Head down, I continued walking.
Time… if I didn’t know any better, I’d say I was the one standing still and the world passing beneath me.
Cotard’s delusion… ever hear of that one? I just did. For some reason the word, or should I say the diagnosis, just leapt inside my head. The idea that I’m dead, but I’m really alive, believing I am dead.
I know, sounds even crazier than being crazy if you ask me, however, the possibility could exist.
Then again, I’ve never heard of anyone suffering from Cotard’s delusion thinking he was dead but alive, wandering through Kansas or Nebraska in the middle of a heat wave, either.
Another moment in time
My eyes must be playing tricks on me, because if I squint really hard and use my hand to shade my eyes, I swear the horizon seems darker than before.
I’d been traveling for what seemed hours, all the while making very little obvious headway.… and now, after an immeasurable amount, I spot something on the horizon, something ominous looking just beyond the range of my vision but near enough to break the monotony of the endless fields on either side. Another quick glance confirmed my observation; it was definitely darker ahead of me than behind.
At least it was something to strive for. With any luck it would be an approaching storm.
With renewed confidence my pace quickened.
I continued to walk like this for a couple more hours, head down, teeth clenched, mind centered on remaining exactly where I was, intent upon placing one foot in front of the other and making a dogged effort to reach the darkness first glimpsed on the horizon sometime back.
What confidence I had gained earlier was swiftly fading.
I’d taken to walking alongside the highway, not because I was afraid of being run down by a passing motorist, because there weren’t any, but because it was habit. I’d already accepted the fact that I was alone, that this world had passed on. In my mind the highway was a farce, a story I’d been told that had no ending- the hard, sure promise of something that would never completely be.
Besides, the heat seemed less intense along the highways edge.
The next time I thought to look up, busy within the confines of my own misery, the darkness had grown, been replaced in fact, but not by what I had hoped for. As it turned out the darkness I’d spotted earlier hadn’t been a storm at all, nor was it the promise of a cooling rain or cloud, but something much, much better, or worse depending on how you looked at it. The darkness turned out to be a town, but not like any town I’d ever seen or known before.
Another excerpt from my new novel- Fata Morgana. Hope you enjoy reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Wikipedia defines Fata Morgana as: An unusual and complex form of superior mirage that is seen in a narrow band right above the horizon. It is the Italian name for the Arthurian sorceress Morgan le Fay, from a belief that these mirages, often seen in the Strait of Messina, were fairy castles in the air or false land created by her witchcraft to lure sailors to their death. Although the term Fata Morgana is sometimes applied to other, more common kinds of mirages, the true Fata Morgana is not the same as an ordinary superior mirage, nor is it the same as an inferior mirage.
From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fata_Morgana_%28mirage%29
She stands before me where ocean meets sand, part angel, part demon, all woman and child. Because of this, how I got here, where here was even, no longer seemed to matter, only that I was here and so was she.
Honey-brown skin tanned by endless summer suns, long blond hair, wafts of which hang in front of her eyes, full lips and a broad forehead. She is hard in all the places meant to be hard and soft in all the places meant to be soft.
Clad in skin-tight blue jeans and a light gray tee, she stands with her legs squared beneath her shoulders, her head tipped forward ever so slightly, watching me, her eyebrows slightly raised. Her arms hang by her side relaxed, but her fists are clenched.
Even at this distance I can tell she smells of sunshine and rain, a young girl’s flesh after tanning in the sun, slightly spicy, slightly salty entirely exotic, like three quick shots of tequila and a warm summer’s breeze.
I am reminded of the song Thunder Island
In this time and place she anchors me, reminds me that I am not alone. She also brings to mind that I am not the last; that someone suffers with me, is going through the same trials and tribulation. (That’s what I would call them anyway, the farmhouse, the town and the tunnel… all those ‘day-tripping’ adventures in-between.)
The thought makes me weep.
In this time and place she is a godsend, an answer to an unasked prayer. It wasn’t just me living again all by myself and just for me. There was more, so much more. The universe was a huge, huge place and her being here reminded me of that
For I knew her
For what seemed an eternity we just stood there, I’m looking at her; she’s looking at me, both of us too terrified to move. One word and she might vanish. One blink and I might end up being all alone again.
“Is that really you?” I ask.
Her answer returns in silence. A muscle in her forearm starts to quiver and then grows still. “I could ask the same of you,” she replies.
Same voice, but older now
In that moment I approach, daring the moment to end, daring the vision of her to vanish like a mirage.
And yet, through it all she remains, even as I close the gap between us.
Question’s remain; if I were to run my lips across hers, lightly brush them across her cheek- run my hands along the curve of her arm, the small of her back… dare to hold her hand in mine, would she still remain, would she still be mine?
“You have no idea,” I begin, reaching out. I wanted to hold her, to pull her up next to me, feel her body close to mine, to feel her breath on my cheek, her heart beating fast, for you see, I once knew who she was and she I.
She denies me this simple gesture, shying away from me like a young willow bending in the wind. “Exactly,” she states, “I have no idea.”
But she lies; I can see it in her eyes, in the squaring of her shoulders. Deny me she must, but at one time- in that other place and time -she knew exactly who I was and what I’d meant to her.
What we’d meant to each other.
But then again, that had been a lifetime ago.