Links to buy SAURIMONDE II on Amazon are here: http://www.amazon.com/Saurimonde-II-2-Scarlett-Amaris/dp/1502598507
Also, for all our friends on Facebook, Melissa and myself will be hanging out, answering questions, and giving away a couple of FREE e-copies of SAURIMONDE II at the Ragnarok Publications - Ragnarok October Block Party on October 20, 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm EDT. If you wish to join us (and we hope you do!) and a lot of other fabulous aithors just follow the link for all the info - https://www.facebook.com/events/577239332405796/
And to celebrate I am posting the first chapter of the next story I am working on which is so near and dear to my heart and will be my first real stab at historical fantasy, but it will of course have supernatural and erotic elements. It doesn't yet have a title but like all good things that will come.
(Lux in Tenebris)
A cold sweat ran down her back and she shivered against the immense heat generated by the heavy blankets that she lay imprisoned under. How long had she been here? Time had become indistinct as she lay lost in fevered dreams. She could smell the scent of honeysuckle which had run wild on her father's estate over it's crumbling walls and turreted tower. Then she was dancing in the moonlight by herself and with the trees as her only companions. Another memory came of the night her daughter was conceived as a masked face hung over her and the land was regenerated once again through a ritual older than anyone could recall. There was the shock of pain and disbelief from the first time her older lord husband had raised his fist to her and then dragged her down the stairs by her long chestnut-colored hair. Then a piercing cry of a newly-born child and the thinly pursed lips of her disapproving step-mother. Another bastard, the old chatelaine had hissed under her breath. From one bastard to another... These fleeting images flowed one to another, out of sequence, with no beginning or end. Life is like time, a voice whispered to her echoing throughout the cavern. There are currents and crosscurrents. We may think there are beginnings, endings, and resolutions but in reality it ceaselessly flows onto itself.
She began to float again lost amongst the stars, somewhere out between the pillars of creation. Weightless, ageless, sexless, something more than human. This was the true home and from where they had once come from. Her heart beat with the pulsing of the stars. Infinity was within her grasp. The immaculate darkness swam about her. If only she could stay here and from this place she would dream throughout the ages. She could bring them all home. She...
“Esclarmonde...” a voice called out as if from a great distance.
She fumbled towards consciousness as she recognized her name. Her head felt heavy from the concoction she had drunk earlier and her mouth was dry as she tried to swallow. Sinking further into the blankets, she was not yet ready to leave the dream. She wanted to find out more. If this was what was waiting for her on the other side than let her have it now. Gone was the strife and the violence which had afflicted her life and the war torn land which she loved. Stay, she thought to herself. Please stay... But the fragments were already fading like strands of a spider's web once it has been torn.
“Esclarmonde...” the voice was louder and more insistent this time. “Awaken.”
The blankets were thrown off of her as a cool rush of air enveloped her body. She opened her eyes in the darkness and she could have sworn she saw the shapes of other people crowding around her; curious shades who had become trapped between the worlds and had never found their way out. She reached out to one but as she did so her fingertips went right through them and she knew they weren't really there.
A hand stroked her brow and gently lifted her head. “Steady yourself.”
“I... I saw...” she managed to croak. Her throat felt like it was on fire.
“Shhh... don't speak. There will be time enough later.”
She grabbed the woman's hand so familiar with its network of veins and calluses. The woman's grip was surprisingly strong given her age and diminutive stature. Her aunt had been the closest thing she had ever had to a mother and she would know her touch anywhere.
She sat up and she felt her hair heavy and matted fall down her back. A wave of sickness ran through her and her stomach lurched as the world turned upside down for a moment and then righted itself.
“Take you time. Take it slowly.” Her aunt's voice has a quiet resonance that was both hypnotic and authoritative.
An arm reached around her helping her up. She stood a good foot taller than her aunt as she leaned against her for balance. Her muscles ached and there was a stiffness throughout her which she was unaccustomed to. But the damp earth felt good beneath her bare feet as she took her first tentative steps.
“Shake off the dream and ready yourself. It is time.”
The older woman called out a command and the small boulder was moved away. The thinnest trickle of light came streaming through the narrow entrance.
“Close you eyes and follow me.” Esclarmonde did as she was told as she blindly made her way out of the narrow entrance of the cave. She smelled the scent of pine mixed with the smell of laurel and the sunshine felt warm against her clammy skin. As she stood upright the pebbles gathered between her toes and she welcomed the sharp edges; the pain throwing her back in the waking world. She could also hear her aunt's sure and steady footfall come to a halt.
“Awaken my child.” her aunt said.
She opened her eyes. The brightness of the light hurt as she blinked against it. They were standing just below the citadel high on top of the mountain with the valleys spread out below them. Mountain peaks surrounded them like a jagged cradle. All were awash in a riot of colors and she watched as they sparkled and changed like the sun shining through pieces of moving stained glass. Giant trees were levelled into bare patches as glaciers pushed their way through leaving nothing but cut devastation in their wake. Under a gigantic full moon tiny fires emerged on the Thabor only to be quickly extinguished. The skies grew stormy and thunder raced across the heavens to strike into the castle above them. A howl began which grew into a wailing fevered pitch. Esclarmonde covered her ears with her hands as the sound became so loud it was painful. Then the noise stopped as the picture in front of her shattered like a broken window. A calmness enveloped the landscape as it took on a hazy golden glow. She could see the pulsing of the mountains as the grass and trees began to cover them once again. They beat in time to the rhythm of goddess whose name they only knew. She was the heartbeat of the land and she permeated its every aspect. The leaves rustled with her breath. The river rushed to do her bidding. The trees kept her secrets. All was one with her and she was one with all. And in this moment of breathless suspension, poised between the worlds, Esclarmonde understood who it was she was descended from. Belisama was not some figurine or some mythical deity talked about in hushed tones around a camp-fire or a darkened hallway. Belisama was the land itself. The interior and the exterior. She was the light and the dark, the sun and the moon, and all were one with her will.
“There are places where the worlds touch.” Her aunt said quietly behind her. “Where the telluric currents cross and our ancestors still walk the land. There has been a temple on this mountain since time immemorial. Know this is your lineage and you are a part of her and will always be a part of her. Our reality in infinite and yet our destiny is tied to the land, her land, and it for this reason we must defend it, and her, at all costs. If we lose this connection then she will be lost to us forever.”
Esclarmonde nodded her head. She understood now. All the vague rumors that the house of Belissen had descended from the goddess Belisama, or 'summer-bright' as she was known in the old tongue, were true. They were partly divine. They were her chosen. The ones she had decided to incarnate back into this world. How this had come to pass Esclarmonde did not know, but it was true.
“It is a blessing and it is a curse to be her avatar, but that is what you are now. It is your birthright as it was mine.”
The pulsing stopped as time seemed to right itself and her aunt grabbed her hand and started leading her down the narrow and rocky path. Her steps were disjointed and she felt a little unbalanced, but she experienced a quietness as she tried to process all she had seen and felt. It was like being born anew or being washed clean inside. She had always been the storm and now she felt like the first cool breath after it had passed.
Esclarmonde struggled to keep up with her aunt who, despite her advanced age, was as agile as a young girl. No wonder the Crusaders had nicknamed her 'the fox of Foix', she mused. No one could catch her and no one ever would. . The older woman's hair fell just below her waist in a thick braid and was a melee of different shades of silver gray as it swung back and forth with her quick descent. Her brisk steps never faltered. She was Esclarmonde the great – the high priestess of the Catharii.
The older Esclarmonde stopped and turned. She stared deep into her niece's eyes, her dark honey colored eyes were unblinking as they looked right through the younger woman. Then she said, “My time is coming soon and I pass this gift to you. And may you live long enough to pass it to another of our line. But beware. Trouble is coming. The likes of which we have never seen before” She reached up to stroke the younger woman's cheek. “I saw what Bernard did to you. Beware of him as well. He wants you as a possession and he envies you. Never believe his promises. No matter what.”
Esclarmonde d'Alion hung her head. She had never told anyone what transpired with her husband behind closed doors. The harsh words, the accusations mixed with the occasional blows. This was a private pain she had lived with for far too long and she didn't know what to say let alone what to feel about it.
The older woman smiled at her sadly. “You are not the first, nor the last, nor is it your fault.”
Esclarmonde bit back the tears. She would save those for later. After all she had seen, learned and experienced in the last twenty-four hours her husband Bernard, the lord of Usson, whom she'd been forced to marry a few years back, was the last thing she wanted to think about right now.
“Never trust him, because when you need him the most he will betray you and he will hurt you worse than you ever thought possible.” her aunt warned. A crow flew by cawing loudly and her aunt watched it fly into the distance. “ Remember my words...” her voice trailed off.
As they neared the bottom of the mountain Esclarmonde felt her breath catch in her throat . Maybe it had been the crow, or the way the clouds were gathering around the edges of the jagged peaks, but she knew beyond the shadow of a doubt this was the last time she would ever see her aunt alive.
As if reading her mind her aunt answered. “I know. But remember what you have learned. I will be with you always even though our time is short now.” Her aunt paused and tilted her head, “Seems funny doesn't it after all of that?”
Esclarmonde nodded her head as she didn't trust herself to speak. Funny wasn't the word she would have used. Sad, or ironic would have been more like it.
Her aunt grabbed her face a pulled it close as she reached up and gently kissed her niece on the forehead. “You will never be alone and soon you will find what you have been searching for your whole life and when you find it, never let go of it. Allow him to keep you warm throughout the long nights and to give you hope in your darkest hour.”She kissed her aunt back on the cheek and reached out and gave her hand a squeeze as she prayed on the inside that her aunt's words would come true...
Copyright: Scarlett Amaris, 2015.
I'm stopping it there although there's quite a bit more which has been written now.You'll have to forgive me as it's a first draft and still pretty rough. But I'm happy to say the muse whispers once again and the words, and the dreams, whether waking or sleeping, have been flowing at full force.
Enjoy the turning of the seasons as the Our Lady of the Snow's first breath spreads across the land and tints the night air with a frosty glow. This is one of my favorite times of year and plans are being made for a Samhain celebration high atop the hidden Grail Castle. Spells will be cast, wishes will be made, and a celebration and re-dedication to the Goddess who has loved and protected us throughout the ages.
Much love from where the worlds touch,
S - xx