Having been given the privilege of reviewing this soon to be released short story by Rosie Wylor-Owen, I can whole heartedly recommend it for anyone who enjoys the urban fantasy genre. Nice characters, fantastic imagery and all in all a great little story!
Criminals are going missing. Felons or not, Detective Meeks is duty-bound to find them, with little to go on but a suspicious encounter between the latest missing person and a local business owner. As the case unravels, Meeks struggles to make sense of a world he thought he understood. Yet this twist of fate could be his chance to truly making a difference to the community he holds dear.
Amanda Solanke is used to making waves, but never with the police. The last person to see the latest missing criminal, she is dragged to the heart of a police investigation. A small business owner in the eyes of the community, behind closed doors Amanda and her partner Leona guard a magical secret. The closer they are watched, the closer Amanda and Leona come to facing the ultimate danger: exposure.
This short story will be released on 22.03.18 but is available for pre-order now for the bargain price of £0.99!!
The Witch’s Touch https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07BH6MJW3/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_SLgSAbMY7AFJR
Hi folks. As you may have noticed the usual new episode of Bite of the Amphis wasn’t published yesterday as it usually is. I’ve taken on a little much in recent weeks, not an entirely unusual thing where I’m concerned, unfortunately!!
This, I’m afraid, combined with trying to get the fields ploughed and ready to plant out the spring crop in a week or two, and an unfortunate case of carpal tunnel, has put me a little behind.
Don’t worry though! Amara will be returning to the site with a fresh new episode in the next few days once I have a chance to catch back up again.
Until then, I apologise for the brief pause, and beg your patience. Trust me the wait will be worth it!!
“The Goddess is Ziuni…or at least that’s who she told me she was before she vanished into thin air and left me trapped inside the cave of doom.”
The sarcasm in my tone didn’t help to lighten the mood any. Solen still looked just as worried and confused as I felt. He held his hand out to me.
“We’d better return to the Priestess. I don’t know how…or even where…? He shook his head and pulled me to my feet.
“The only thing I’m sure of right now is we need some answers before we let her, or whoever, send us any further down this rabbit hole.”
I nodded and Solen led me from the cave. He kept hold of my hand as we passed behind the crashing wall of water and stepped back up onto the slick rock ledge. It was a good job too, as the moment the clearing came back into view, what I saw there caused me to stumble and nearly fall head-first into the foaming torrent.
Solen grabbed me back from the edge. Normally I’d have flushed right to the roots of my hair with embarrassment at the incurable clumsiness which had plagued me my entire life. Instead, all I could do was stare in open-mouthed amazement at the bizarre and terrifying scene that greeted me in the bright afternoon sunlight.
The beautiful, peaceful meadow which I’d left had been replaced with a dirt covered scrub-land. The thick lush forest of pines had been hacked to the ground and the stumps burned out to make room for the vast army of men which now gathered around smouldering camp fires as far as the eye could see.
I felt Solen’s grip on my hand tighten as he readied himself for the first sign of danger. I didn’t know if he planned to fight or flee, but I could tell from the tension in his frame that, given the choice, he would have rather turned back towards the relative safety of the cave, creepy blood-mould or not.
From what I’d seen in the flickering torch-light, the cave was a dead end though, a fact which I’m sure Solen’s observant gaze wouldn’t have missed.
We had no choice but to continue edging back across the slick ledge in the hopes that we could slip away before any of the men, milling around on the other side of the water, could notice us and sound out an alarm.
My breath froze in my lungs as I followed Solen silently towards the patch of blackened soil at the edge of the water.
I concentrated only on keeping my balance and trying not to disturb any of the loose crumbling rock which lined the cliff-face.
Thankfully the hum of all those voices and the drumming of the waterfall easily covered the sound of our boots on the stone. No, The main fear in this situation would be of sudden movement attracting the attention of the gathered force. An avalanche of stone tumbling with a splash into the water below would definitely count as sudden movement.
We had almost made it to the edge of the water when the unthinkable happened. The ledge below our feet gave a loud, resounding crack. I felt myself falling as the floor give way, and the turbulent icy water closed in over my head.
To my relief I finally felt the light recede again and I cracked my eyes open. I could just about make out faint pink lines where the light shone between my fingers.
The pain was gone so, gingerly, I took my hands away from my face. I kept them raised still just in case the blinding light returned for a second time, and tried to fight back the petrified fear which still had me tightly in its grip.
First of all I could only see an amber glow, but after a couple of seconds the shape of what I assumed to be boulders began to form in front of my eyes.
The drums were still hammering out their demonic rhythm in my ears but I could at least finally hear, the familiar rushing sound of the waterfall somewhere to my left. Just knowing there was an exit from this evil place steadied me some.
Before I could turn gratefully towards it though, my hands finally came into focus. My breath froze in my lungs. Eyes wide, I stared down at them, now coated from wrist to fingertips in a thick layer of sticky, red blood.
With growing horror, I realized I could feel the same gore clinging to my face where I’d tried to protest my eyes.
I screamed, the bloodcurdling sound bouncing off the stone walls as the echoes of the cave screamed right along with me.
I don’t know how long I screamed but it seemed like an eternity before a strong pair of arms pulled me into a crushing embrace.
At first I fought the contact, still lost to the nightmare but the arms refused to let me go. At last I recognized the woodsy scent of the person holding me and my screams turned into shuddering sobs. Solen’s grip relaxed a little but he didn’t pull away, patiently letting me sob out all my terror and pain.
Minutes passed and eventually my sobbing trailed off allowing me to pull in slow calming breaths.
“There’s so much blood…” I whispered brokenly into his shoulder.
He eased back and I stared up into his grey gaze through the watery veil of my tears.
He reached up a hand and stroked a lock of hair back from my face, seeming not to care at all for the blood which made it cling to my skin.
“It’s only red cave mold, Chieftain’s Daughter. Earth’s blood. Not human, I promise you.”
The dizzying relief made me feel suddenly sick, and I lowered my head to my huddled knees willing it to pass so I wouldn’t embarrass myself any more than I already had.
“How did you…?” The sickness rose again interrupting my question but apparently I didn’t need to finish speaking.
“I heard you screaming.” He stood and moved back to give me some breathing room. “The Priestess tried to stop me but I was too fast. I ran down to the chamber to find out what was wrong and there you were covered head to foot in vines.” In his voice I could hear an echo of the same horror I’d felt when I found the girl trapped beneath those serpentine coils. I raised my eyes to his but I couldn’t make out the expression in them in the flickering torchlight which now filled the cave.
“No matter what I did, I couldn’t free you from them without risking hurting you myself.”
“It’s okay, I experienced exactly the same thing, only I didn’t know at the time, that the girl I was trying to save was actually a Goddess.”
Solen looked truly shocked for a moment and I must admit a part of me enjoyed being able to get under that cool facade of his.
“A….how?” I smiled in complete understanding, as I watched him struggling to try and wrap his head around what it all meant, only to come up just as empty as I had.
Sorry for the slight delay in posting folks. Signal issues strike once again. Without further ado…
Kelana’s face flashed into mind again and I steeled myself for whatever was to come. I stepped forward and the inky darkness enveloped me.
The Goddess would need a genuine, rock-solid miracle at this point, I thought grimly. Nothing less would melt the bitter ice protecting my wounded heart.
For several long moments nothing happened. I felt the skin on the back of my neck begin to crawl as the silence pressed in on me. No one spoke, nothing moved. The only sound I could hear was my increasingly stressed breathing and the thumping of my heart.
I cleared my throat nervously, flinching at how loud it sounded as it echoed off the high ceiling somewhere above me. Nothing stirred.
What on earth was the goddess playing at? If she even was who she said she was. What if she wasn’t Ziuni at all? What if she was something ancient and evil and she’d led me in here to… to what? I dreaded to think.
I turned to where I thought the entrance had been but with a wave of panic, realized I could no longer see any sign of where it had once been. Not even a slight telltale lessening of the all encompassing darkness to show me the way back out.
Oh gods. It had to be a trap…and I’d just walked straight on into it. Smart move, Chieftain’s Daughter, very smart!
I stumbled over to the rock wall and gingerly felt my way along it. My mind conjured up ghastly images of huge spiders, deadly scorpions and cave vipers, waiting patiently for my vulnerable fingers to come close enough to strike.
I didn’t hear any scuttling or scrabbling but the stone beneath my fingers was damp and covered in a thick layer of slimy cave mold. The ideal hunting ground for all manner of nasty little creatures.
Still nothing. My fingers followed the contour of the rock but encountered no seams or openings of any kind. I sobbed out a frightened breath, and tried to force air into my suddenly oxygen starved lungs, past the tight blockage in my throat. It felt as if the thick black void was slowly seeping into my pores. Invading my nose and mouth with its musty choking staleness.
I leaned on my hands against the stone, half scared that, if I took my hands away from the only solid thing I knew, I’d drift off into the blackness and be lost.
At last a drum beat started up in the distance, growing louder with each rhythmic beat. I’d thought the silence was terrible. I was wrong.
Standing all alone in the dark with the menacing sound of a hundred drums getting louder and louder, faster and faster, pushed me over from panic into blind fear.
Turning, I crouched against the cave wall, trying to draw what little strength I could from it’s clammy cold presence at my back. Ignoring the icy damp that soaked through my tunic and shirt.
The drumming continued it’s tempo, manic and out of control. I couldn’t take it any more and pressed my shaking hands over my ears to try and drown the sound out. It didn’t help. It was as if the drums were playing inside of my head, driving me to insanity with their relentless march.
Light flooded the cave, blinding me. I closed my eyes against the onslaught and moved my hands to protect them from the burning pain. This was nothing like the gentle warm light from the emerald chamber. It was harsh and biting.
Even through the protection of my desperate hands, it felt as if it was somehow burning through my eye sockets, deep into my brain.
Due to publication rules on Amazon KDP, I’ve had to remove some of my poems which were previously published on this website.
Don’t worry though you can still find them all in ‘Solitary Secret Paths’ the first volume of my new poetry collection, for sale on Amazon in both paperback and e-book format. Currently the paperback copy is on offer at £3.62 and the e-book is £1.99.
Every purchase is incredibly appreciated and goes towards keeping my rescue animals and I ticking along happily, so thank you sooo much. Don’t forget to leave an honest review on Amazon to tell others what you thought of it!! 😉
You can find Solitary Secret Paths by clicking on the following link…< em>Solitary Secret Paths https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1549857509/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_eUgNAbW89FNWT
She smiled patiently down at me, no doubt waiting for me to process the unbelievably bizarre situation I found myself in.
Mortified, I realized my mouth was literally hanging open in shock. I snapped it shut, the significance of who, or rather what she was finally dawning on my stunned mind.
To supplicate oneself before their deity was something I’d had drummed into me from early childhood.
I panicked, fell to my knees on the soft grass at her feet and buried my head in my trembling hands.
My panic stemmed not only from fear of the divine though.
For so long my traitorous heart had contained only frustrated disbelief and bitterness when it came down to my people’s traditional beliefs. I’d considered their unwavering belief in their absent goddess to be a mark of naivety rather than reverence.
In that moment, I found it near impossible to reconcile the apparently warm, caring woman who stood before me with the cold, heartless deity who’d so casually taken the lives of so many of my people.
Once again i saw the terror and despair on Kelana’s face, in those few agonizing moments. When she realized with terrified horror that the bite of the Amphis would take her life.
I remembered too, the wasting sickness which no amount of ritual, prayers or offerings had been able to prevent from stealing away my mother’s life, so long before her time was due. A lifetime before I was ready to let her go.
As I knelt there, prostrate and trembling in the fragrant grass, I found that I didn’t feel humble, grateful or afraid. No. All I felt was the white hot spark of anger kindling into life within my breast at the incredible injustice of it all.
A fact which I was suddenly painfully certain the goddess already knew.
I kept my head bowed trying desperately to get my roiling emotions under some control. To push down the rash impulses that were boiling to the surface. It was either that or end up becoming the lit torch to my own funeral pyre.
Was this, at last, the moment I’d been fearing? Where my disembodied spirit would be judged and punished for ever having dared to question the divine benefactor of my people?
I felt a gentle hand touch my shoulder and braced myself for what I was sure wasn’t going to be an easy death.
“Please stand Amara. You must understand that I don’t wish you or your people harm, in this place or any other.”
I felt myself stand, even though I was fairly certain I hadn’t actually instructed my body to do so.
“Then why?…” I choked out unable to keep the bitter incredulity from tinging my voice.
“There’s much you don’t know, Chieftains Daughter. Much I have yet to tell you before our time here is done.” She took my shaking hand in her own. “Please follow me. There’s something I must show to you before we can begin.”
I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to go with the Goddess but, as before, my limbs moved of their own accord, and I found myself walking hand in hand with her along the clear waters edge towards the drumming falls.
At last, we reached the mossy grey cliff, and I noticed a narrow rock ledge which followed the line of the water for a way before disappearing behind the wall of tumbling water.
Ziuni smiled again, and released my hand before stepping out onto the ledge.
I paused for a moment but then curiosity won out over anger, for the time being at least, and I stepped out onto the slippery path, following in the Goddess’ wake, as we carefully made our way towards the deafening water.
As with the emerald chamber, I didn’t know what I expected to find on the other side of the waterfall. Answers for one. Maybe some sort of explanation for what was happening to me?
The Goddess had spoken of a task. Maybe it was that which awaited us, but I didn’t think so.
Whatever it was, I was certain of one thing. It’s primary focus would be to convince me, by whatever means necessary, that the distant, unfeeling deity, I’d spent my entire life in forced deference to, was somehow still worthy of my love and devotion after all.
“I don’t understand?” I whispered, still lost to an immense sadness that I couldn’t even begin to explain. This girl was a stranger to me, yet somehow the thought of her loss reminded me of just how I’d felt on the day my mother died. Lost. So terribly alone in the vast, empty ocean of my grief.
The room gradually began to fill with incandescent light but I couldn’t bring myself to care, not with her still form lying prone before me.
The light grew and grew until at last I was forced to close my eyes against the intense glare. I could feel its warmth bathing my skin, soothing me with its rays. I felt the terrible sadness withdraw slightly from my heart and the tension at last began to leave my body.
A light breeze swirled up around me, teasing the ends of my hair and blowing them up around my face. I could almost feel the magic of it dancing over my skin.
It was the unmistakable pounding sound of a nearby waterfall that finally got me to open my eyes.
I gazed around in utter amazement. The emerald cave with its terrible secret was gone. In its place lay
A meadow of sweet lush grass, which bent slightly to the playful breeze. It was bordered on three sides by an unfamiliar forest of cedar, redwood and pine.
On the fourth side, tumbling down a mossy cliff of weathered grey stone, was the waterfall that I’d heard.
It wasn’t the majestic beauty of the falls that captured my attention though, but the young girl stood at its base, staring out across the rippling azure water.
I hesitated for a moment not wanting to intrude on her solitary reflection.
“It’s alright Amara. I’ve been waiting for this moment for five thousand years.” Despite the distance between us her voice was as clear as if she’d been standing beside me.
“One hundred and ninety nine generations of your people have come and gone as I watched millennia pass from the confines of my earthly prison.”
I could feel the myriad questions building on the tip of my tongue. I started walking toward her through the tall grass, heedless of the cool dew which soon saturated my moccasins and the legs of my buckskins.
The strangest thing happened as I made my way across that still, beautiful clearing. With every step that I took towards the girl she began to age. I don’t know to this day if it was merely my perception of her true form that was altering as I walked
or if she was actually physically shedding the illusion of her youth in the same way a butterfly sheds its cocoon. Was there even such a thing as the ‘physical’ in whatever realm this was?
To be honest, at first I hadn’t even noticed as the changes were so subtle. Subconsciously I think I just accepted that it must be the lessening distance between us that was simply allowing me to see her clearer.
By the time I’d crossed half the distance to her though, I couldn’t fail to see what was happening. Her youthful form had filled out and grown, morphing into that of a woman who looked closer to her mid twenties, far altered from the young girl I’d seen imprisoned beneath the vines.
At last I reached her side and found myself looking up into the face of a woman somewhere in her mid to late thirties. Her eyes were the same shade of ethereal violet as those of the Priestess but that was where the similarities ended. This woman’s eyes were noticeably missing the spark of humanity, like deep ageless pools of liquid amethyst.
I felt a flicker of the same fear I’d felt when faced with the vast power on the island, and in that moment I was certain that whoever this being was, she definitely wasn’t human.
She still felt so familiar to me, like somehow I should remember her but to my frustration the memory still remained just out of reach.
Reaching out a pale hand, she gently brushed a stray lock of hair from my face just as a mother would a child. I couldn’t help flinching slightly at the contact and the look of deep sadness, which bloomed in her alien eyes nearly drowned me in a wave of despair and regret.
“I’m so pleased to finally meet you Amara, daughter of Kochek and Princess to the Nacaguan people. Ziuni is the name your ancestors gifted me with millenia ago, and now that you are finally here, I have a very important task to ask of you.”
I felt the Priestess’ cool hand on my shoulder and turned, reluctant to meet her strange violet eyes and hear the words I instinctively new she was about to say.
“This path is for you alone to tread, Amara.” And there it was, the sentence I’d hoped in my heart of hearts wouldn’t come.
“But…I have so many questions…” The Priestess smiled and raised a single pale finger to my lips.
“All in good time, Amara. You aren’t quite rid of me just yet I’m afraid. Your brave consort and I will be waiting right here for your return.” Lowering her hand she stepped back. Swallowing my trepidation I nodded stiffly, not wanting to risk my voice betraying the panic I felt welling in my stomach. Turning, I glanced back at Solen searching for the inner strength I’d need to continue on alone. The strength that he somehow always seemed to have in abundance.
“You can do this, Chieftain’s Daughter.” His smile was reassuring but it couldn’t eclipse the concern I saw in his eyes as I turned from him and started down the stairs.
With every step I took down into the green hued passage, I felt the press of the power increase upon me. It was like a slow trickle of sand and I could feel every single grain adding to the vast mountain which threatened to crush me. It was how I’d imagine claustrophobia would feel.
Small spaces had never really bothered me much. In the close confines of the tunnel, I was starting to reassess my standpoint.
It took me a few moments more to realize that the low noise I could hear was actually the walls of the passage. They were humming softly. The energy I could practically see running through them, creating its own unique melody. It’s sound was almost intoxicating.
I don’t really know what I had expected to find once I reached the bottom of the staircase, but it certainly wasn’t anything like what I saw as I descended the last few steps into the small chamber below the island.
In the center of the small space was a dais, not unlike the one I’d stepped up onto inside of the ceremonial circle what seemed like a lifetime ago now. It too had something large set upon it, another shrine perhaps, like the one which the Amphis has occupied? It was impossible to tell though, as wherever it was, was completely encased in a mat of dense, green vines.
I stepped closer, curiosity winning out over fear, as I tried to make out the true outline of the thing lying beneath. As I reached the top step of the dais, I noticed a small gap which the vines hadn’t yet managed to cover over. I leaned in to get a better look. Whatever was inside had to be what the Priestess has sent me down here to find. There wasn’t anything else contained within the small chamber after all.
Finally, I managed to find the right angle to peer beneath the thick foliage, but what I saw within its verdant coils filled me with a sickening wave of horror.
It was a girl! She couldn’t be many summers older than me, her skin was pale and her eyes closed as if in sleep. It was then that I realized with revulsion that the vines weren’t just encasing her small form. They were consuming her. Feeding from her body in the same way a strangleweed plant would feed from its host tree. Countless pink tinged tendrils punctured her skin and the network of small purple veins, which I could see clearly now beneath the green skin of the plant, we’re slowly draining her life away.
One thought eclipsed my mind. I had to save her! I began ripping at the vines, tearing away at them, using my fingernails to claw them off of her still, pallid skin.
Moments passed or maybe hours, my frantic mind lost all grip on the passage of time as no matter how hard I fought, the snakelike vines would just shift and lengthen, instantly filling in the damage which I inflicted with fresh new growth.
Tears of frustration ran unchecked down my cheeks but still I kept on clawing and tearing, unwilling and unable to just give up on her. I could feel her slow steady pulse as I dug my fingers deep into her tormentors flesh. It confirmed what I’d already known in my heart. She was still alive in there, it wasn’t too late.
“That is not the way my child.” The new melodious voice swelled to fill every space within the small chamber with its soothing beauty. My hands stilled and I dragged in a sobbing breath, collapsing to my knees on the cold stone platform.
“But I have to save you!” My words were a broken whisper. I didn’t even question how it was that I knew the voice to be hers. Bitter tears blinded me, turning the emerald tomb into a sea of watery-green hues.
“And save me you will, Amara, Daughter of Kocheck, and Princess to the Nacaguan people.”