Monday, April 14, 2014

The Hunter

By Debbie Civil
Fantasy, 357 pages
Cover art by Richard Stroud


Sabena Pierce had to run away from Paul McCann, the boy who had broken her heart. She sped out of the parking lot and away from the life that she once knew. After she is captured by Chelindren renegades, Sabena discovers that her entire life has been a lie. She isn’t human and her mother committed a sin much worse than adultery. Sabena is a part of a magical race and there is war among the chelindren people. If she chooses to stand by her family, she will lose the one that she desperately loves. But Sabina is intent on not choosing at all. After Sunny MacPherson, a vindictive outlaw, sends vicious witchlings after her, Sabena will realize that her decision isn’t just between loyalty and love.


Prologue - Five years prior

Deidra felt a jolt of electricity when her hand brushed against the smooth surface of the blue stone. Her vision filled with bright light, and the sound of the ceiling fan and the smell of sodden boxes vanished. The floor that had been creaky under her sneakered feet quaked, causing her to flail. She dropped the stone in an effort to grab onto something solid, but found nothing except empty air. For a moment she was trapped in a bubble of oblivion. Then, everything happened at once. Cold misty air slapped her in the face, as the sounds of wolves howling traveled to her, and she slammed a shoulder into a tree. Deidra cried out in pain as the angry branches dug into her arm, drawing blood. She tried to pull away from the tree, but it was as if the plant didn’t want to release her. She blinked until the world didn’t seem so blurry anymore and glared up at the moody oak tree.

Examining her arm, Deidra realized a branch had snaked itself around her triceps as if it wanted to prevent her from walking forward. She reached out with her right hand and tugged at the branch. She shrieked as a layer of her skin ripped when the plant relinquished its hold. Warm blood trickled down her arm and splattered onto the hard ground. She cursed when she remembered that animals loved the scent of warm blood. Deidra frowned at her surroundings. Towering spruces, oaks, evergreens, sugar pines, and palm trees encircled her in a smothering cage. Deidra knew it was impossible for all of those trees to survive in the same environment. But her eyes were not deceiving her. The ground was covered in a layer of ice, suggesting this place was going through winter. But still, lush green grass poked out of the ice, standing tall despite its imprisonment.

“Where am I?” Deidra muttered to herself. She knew where she had been…in her recently deceased Uncle Charles’ attic packing boxes. Her Aunt Devin had threatened to dispose of what she referred to as “a pile of junk”. Uncle Charles worked diligently to collect his trinkets and Deidra felt the collection’s final home shouldn’t have been a landfill. Being a selfless niece, Deidra sacrificed her Saturday and drove three hours to pack up his stuff. She was in the middle of sorting through a collection of stones of all shapes and sizes, when she discovered the small blue stone. This stone was a cylinder shaped creation about three inches long and one inch thick, lying at the bottom of the box. A trickle of sweat traveled down Deidra’s neck, making her decide to turn on the ceiling fan. After standing under the cool air for a few minutes, the girl reached out for the stone and was electrocuted. “So that’s what’s happening,” Deidra realized. “I’m dead.” She was probably in purgatory, the realm between heaven and hell.

Deidra shivered as the air suddenly grew ten degrees colder. The wind picked up, sending a cloud of dirt, leaves and tiny particles of ice everywhere. She rubbed her right arm, bare and as cold as a block of ice. Dressed in a white tank top, black shorts, and white sneakers, Deidra was not garbed for this weather. If she stood there, she would freeze to death. It took considerable effort to take the first step because her limbs were beginning to lock up. But when she finally began moving, Deidra realized she didn’t know where to go. All of the branches held hands with the branches of the neighboring trees. This forest didn’t want her to leave. The girl shivered in fear at the idea of climbing one of the volatile plants. These plants had minds of their own. She could easily be tossed around like a baseball. Deidra had no idea where the instinct came from, but knew staying in this forest would be a mistake. She glanced up at the sky. A sliver of light traveled through the canopy the branches made over her head. As if to grant her wish, the spruce beside the oak that had held her captive slithered aside the barest of inches. Deidra sighed in relief and took the exit. She frowned as the trees vanished. A layer of hard ice still coated the ground, and the terrain slanted in places. Deidra’s wide brown eyes couldn’t believe what she was witnessing. But the distant snarl of a wolf told the girl it wasn’t best to linger.

Deidra took off running, keeping track of the pounding paws behind her. She didn’t care where she went, as long as the wolves wouldn’t feast on her flesh. The area changed again, shoving obstacles in her way. Gone was the easy land. She slid between trees, tripped over boulders, and snagged her long black hair on abnormally large tree branches. The farther she ran, the warmer it became. The ice turned into puddles that splashed the trees as she ran through them. Her once icy skin began to burn from the sudden shock of this warmer atmosphere. Her sides ached from the exercise; Deidra wasn’t the athlete in the family. She preferred to curl up with a good book. She wished she had been like her brother Mike, who was the high school track star. The exhaustion struck like a thunder bolt and the girl fell onto the forest floor, unable to move. The wolves could eat her now, Deidra thought as the various scrapes, bruises, and aches began to sing a painful song. The girl could move no longer and didn’t think it mattered. After all, she was dead. There was no death after death.

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