Bite Of The Amphis An E-Fiction Series:
As you probably know, a while back I decided to start writing an e-fiction series directly to my blog. Since then this project has taken on a life of its own. What I had expected to be a relaxing writing diversion, has grown up to be a three-book young adult fantasy-adventure series — the first book of which (Chieftain’s Daughter) is now complete and undergoing its final revisions before I start in on book two.
With that in mind, I’m removing these episodes for a time while I finish up the revisions, but you can expect to find a few teaser scenes, as well as some other goodies, appearing on this page shortly. There is still more work to be done before the time is right to send the first book off for publication, but once there I will also post the link to it here for anyone interested.
So please keep your eyes peeled for the next update on Amara’s story!
Table of Contents
Time Runs Out
I jumped as the ceremonial drum began to sound from the direction of the clearing. Silence fell across the gathered crowd, and I felt my father tense beside me. I glanced over at him, but he didn’t look my way. Shoving away my senseless hurt I dropped my gaze to the scarred tabletop beneath my fingers. I understood why he chose to maintain this distance. After losing my mother, even the thought that he might lose me too had weighed heavily on him. I had helplessly watched it eating into his proud looks and vigour in recent months, like some kind of terrible plague. He seemed to have aged several summers right before my eyes. I hoped for his sake, as well as my own that I’d be spared – that we all would.
He stood then, spine straight and shoulders back, trying to look like the strong leader he had always been, rather than the terrified father which I knew he was today; for his people’s sake if not his own. He nodded to his guard, and I watched as the painted men set off down the trail behind us, lighting the tallow torches as they went.
“The coming of the solstice moon is upon us once again.” We all stood, and my father’s voice rang out across the crowd. At his words, mounting fear tightened its grip on my throat, even though by this point, I knew the ritual inside and out.
“The Goddess Ziuni has seen fit to bless our tribe and lands once more, join me now as we pay tribute to her benevolence.”
He walked across to the torch-marked path, leaving me standing alone by the table; chest tight, fists clenched, and trying desperately to hide my cowardice from the people’s knowing eyes.
My father turned to lead the procession, and I found my eyes fixed on his strong back right up to the moment he passed out of sight into the growing darkness. It was customary for supplicants to walk the path alone of their own volition, as a sign of their continued unwavering devotion to the Goddess. But, watching in silence as the rest of the tribe passed by me, I felt the urge to run rising within, far stronger than it had ever been before.
[Image: By Arne Hückelheim – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12395926%5D
I stared in horrified fascination as first one and then another serpentine head appeared from within those coils. It’s shining black eyes seemed to fix on me. I had always held a deep aversion to snakes, but it was nothing like I felt in that moment. My skin seemed to crawl beneath its unblinking gaze. It was as if the serpent could somehow see deep into the furthest reaches of my soul. Like it was coldly weighing up my strengths and weaknesses.
Tearing my eyes away from the creature, I glanced over at Solen. He’d released my hand when the priestess had begun the first steps of the ritual, and my fingers felt cold and numb without his reassuring grip. His expression was carefully blank as he too stared down at the snake. From my years standing in that outer circle, I knew that the flickering of the torchlight obscured our faces enough so that none of the gathered crowd would be able to see either of our expressions clearly. Still, I couldn’t help but envy Solen his unwavering control. It was that same skill which my father possessed in spades, and which I still somehow lacked despite years of trying to master it.
The pounding of the drums ceased, and my heart seemed to join them in silence as the priestess stepped back, and I watched Solen take the final three steps up to the shrine. The priestess gestured with a pale hand towards the smooth stone plinth in front of the golden box.
Taking a single steadying breath, Solen firmly pressed his hand down onto the stone. I wanted to look away, to hide my eyes until it was all over and done with, but as the coils of the serpent began to move, my gaze kept focusing back on its arrow-shaped heads. Solen’s neutral expression was still firmly in place, but I could see from the new lines of tension in his jaw that his teeth were clenched hard behind his tightly-pressed lips. The moment seemed to stretch for an eternity. I felt the knots in my stomach tighten and form into a tight, painful ball as the tension built to the point that it felt more like a physical presence up there on the dais between us.
The Amphis struck…
The Crimson Goddess
This time the silence was accompanied by that same familiar, oppressive feeling of power which had overwhelmed my senses as I stepped foot onto the shore of the emerald island. But this power felt feverish somehow; like an awful sickness brought forth from its host. Suddenly, I knew with a terrible certainty who it was that was standing at the centre of that power; prowling through the long grass only a stones-throw from where I lay.
Azirah! My blood turned to ice in my veins, and my breath caught painfully. Squeezing my eyes shut, as if somehow that would hide me from her sight, I forced myself to remain perfectly still. My heartbeat was loud in my ears – so loud, that I was petrified that somehow, she would hear it and come for me. My lungs burned with the desperate need to breathe, but I denied them. My every sense focused in on the soft shushing sound that her feet made in the long grass as she passed by, only a hairs-breadth from my hiding place. Her feet paused then, and it seemed that even my frantically beating heart stopped its hammering for a long painful moment.
To this day, I thank the fates that she didn’t find me. I wasn’t ready back then… Not strong enough, or wise enough by far to do what must be done. There are some things that only the time and the experience of many lifetimes can teach a person, and then there are some things that surpass even that – things that we are never truly ready for. When that moment arrives, and destiny takes a hand in your fate, you just hope and pray that you’ll live long enough to be able to wonder about how you managed to survive it at all.
Even then, as a scared and naive young girl lying paralysed in the dirt, I’d known on some deep subconscious level that one day I would have to face the Crimson Goddess. Our destined meeting was etched on the stars – and only one of us would be walking away from it.