First, a HUMONGOUS apology to my fellow WIPpeteers for only making it to about half of your posts last week. 😦 I’m still going to attempt to catch up. WIPpeteer Honor. It just might take me a while. I forgot how crazy book release time is! I feel like I’m on a treadmill and someone just jacked up the speed. Run, Kathi, run!
Second, this goes out to all the fellow bloggers helping share the cover reveal and spread the word regarding the release of Emergence.
You are all, without a doubt, the finest bunch of folks ever. I’m blessed to have you all in my on-line circle of support.
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve been waiting for it. I’m going to share with you something that won’t be seen elsewhere…the full cover spread for Emergence, minus all text.
I have to say, I’m quite pleased with how it turned out.
He had a name. If he searched the recesses of his memory he could recall it.
At the moment, however, a name possessed far less importance than the enormity of breathing. The crone lay nearby, less alive than he, and yet her presence twisted like a knife in the back of his skull. It surprised him she still lived. The brunt of the attack had been centered on her. He had suffered only the magical backlash, and the physical damage of being trapped under shattered stone and wood.
And now he lay on a low cot in a dark hovel with no recollection of how he had gotten there or who may have been responsible. He rolled his head on the pillow, and peered through his lashes to locate the source of the hushed voices that had woken him. He recognized the guttural snorts and cackling of one. The crone’s pet, it seemed, had survived the ordeal as well. Pity, that. He hoped it had not been instrumental in saving him. To be in any way indebted to a creature of dubious genetics and minimal intelligence would be unthinkable.
The other voice belonged to a woman, but silhouetted against the fire he could make out none of her features. She straightened as though feeling his gaze. Her eyes glittered in the dim light when she turned his way.
“Lord Donovan, you’re awake.”
She moved to where he lay, and knelt beside him. Her hand brushed his forehead, and the unmistakable tingle of dark magic flowed from her touch. Donovan closed his eyes as it coursed through him.
“Grumnlin, fetch the draught,” she said.
She slipped her arm under Donovan’s shoulders, lifting him easily to place a cup to his lips. He drank out of reflex and gagged on the warm, sour liquid. She forced him to choke down a few more pained swallows before lowering him back to the pillows, then wiped his chin with a warm cloth as though he were no more than a babe. He curled a lip at the attention, but didn’t have the energy to object. The scent of lavender and herbs tickled his nose as she drew the cloth across his chest. Coupled with whatever had been in the draught, it served to relieve numerous pains.
He licked his lips. Forming words took time. Actually speaking them took immense effort. “How…long…have I been here?”
The woman made a face. “The better part of six days.” A strange accent gave the simple sentence a musical quality. “How long you laid within the runes, I think was perhaps half that.”
“Who are you?” His voice, in stark contrast to hers, bore an annoying similarity to the crone’s pet.
“I am known here as Teeva.”
He drew in a breath and with it more strength. “And here would be…”
“The northern reaches of the great fen. That one–” she angled her head toward the crone’s resting spot “–could not pass outside the borders even yet.”
“How is it…she still lives?”
“By the hand of the unholies or nothing at all. Her physical wounds are more grievous than yours. I have tended them best I can. The rest are beyond my skill.”
He watched her carefully. “Is it within your skill to kill her?”
An inhuman screech drowned her reply. Grumnlin darted protectively in front of the cot the crone occupied, close enough to the fire to push her in.
“No do! Pretty witch, no do!” He turned, sobbing, and threw himself across the prone form. “No do, no do.”
Donovan sneered at the display. The woman rose from his side and moved lightly across the tiny hovel. She put an arm around the creature’s shoulders and guided him toward the doorway. “Come now, Grumnlin, you’ve been too long within these walls. Wander your beloved swamp and catch yourself a nice, fat, toady for supper. That should cheer your mood.”
The creature cast a narrow-eyed glare over his shoulder. “Lor-del-ing no kill Lady or I eat him for supper.” He pushed aside the hide covering the doorway and slipped into the night.
The threat would have been laughable if Donovan were confident he could fend the thing off if it did come for him. He drifted back to sleep, allowing the woman to see to his bodily injuries while he spent time in the ethereal realm tending to his battered power. That would be no quick or easy task. Power of the sort he wielded had no patience for weakness or frailty. Donovan had spent decades honing and shaping it, organizing it into a thing of brutal perfection and dark beauty. His alliance with the crone had changed it forever. It would take more strength than he currently had to explore the depths of that change. For now, it took all he had just to restore it to its previous, ordered form.
Daylight streamed through the unshuttered window when Donovan next woke, bathing the interior of the squalid hovel in dust streaked rays. The air carried the fresh scent of rain that, for the moment at least, masked the odor of rot and decay. The woman, Teeva, knelt beside the crone’s cot, but she looked over her shoulder at Donovan when his eyes found her. She acknowledged him with a nod, and turned back to the crone.
Donovan propped himself up on his elbows. “Why is it you insist on tending her?”
“Lor-del-ing.” A round, gnarled face peered at him from over the foot of his bed. The creature wheezed, a tired, washed out sound like the death rattle of a wounded man. “You not kill Lady.”
Donovan explored a healing cut on his lip with his tongue. “I would not dream of it.”
“Lady give see-crets.” Grumnlin tapped the side of his head with a blunt-clawed finger.
Donovan could feel each of the crone’s labored breaths as though they were his own. A disturbing fact. He turned his attention back to the woman. “Is she conscious?”
Teeva looked over her shoulder again. “No, Lord. It would not be wise to allow at this point. Only by the grace of the unholies will she live another day.”
Donovan raised a brow. He now understood what he had scented on the woman. Dark magic. “How did you find us?”
“I do!” The crone’s creature thumped its chest, adding to the dust in the air. “I know pretty witch. I bring to save Lady.” He scrunched his face. “Lady say save you.”
“She spoke to you?”
“Lady always speak to me. She no use voice. I hear all.”
Teeva stood and once again shooed the creature out the door. “Be gone, Grumnlin. You still look pale. Go. I don’t need three patients.”
The creature snorted, hopped off the stool it had been sitting on, and waddled out the door. The woman picked up a pitcher, and filled a wooden mug. Donovan wrinkled his nose at it.
“Sweet water,” she said. “Nothing more.”
He took the cup and leaned forward so she could prop pillows behind him. His aches were noticeably less than they had been. He could still feel the ripple of her healing running through him. The darkness of it would have physically aroused him had he not regained some of his discipline and self control. Teeva took the stool vacated by Grumnlin and pulled it next to the bed, watching Donovan study her in the half light filling the cottage.
She had sharp features, with high cheekbones and an angular face made even more so by the way she pulled her raven hair back in a tight knot at the base of her skull. Her eyes were narrow, and looked to be almost purple. That could have been a play of the light, but more likely it was due to the strength of her magic which Donovan studied without her permission. It bore similarities to his own power in the ordered and carefully cultivated manner of it. She had come by part of it naturally, as did most of any worth, but the rest had no basis in the natural world and had required sacrifices of the body and soul to bring it to fruition.
“My father was a Priest of the Dominion,” she said, returning his gaze unflinching. “My mother a whore.”
“Dominion magic is a paternal line.”
She smiled. “Apparently there are exceptions.”
Donovan inhaled past the twinge across his ribs, and drew her scent in through his nostrils; a tantalizing blend of earth, musk, and darkness. “Healing is a rather mundane path for one Dominion born, is it not?”
Her chin came up. “I am a priestess, Lord. But it would have been sacrilege not to aid someone such as the Lady and yourself, using whatever means are at my disposal.”
“And those means are considerable.” He mulled that over, never once taking his eyes from hers. He would guess he knew more about the history of Dominion magic than anyone alive. Most thought it lost, buried in the fog of the past. “Are you bound, Priestess?”
The fine nose wrinkled, and a light flashed in her eyes. “The Dominion will not bind a woman.”
He had known that, and now he also knew how much it ate at her. The strength of those emotions could prove valuable. In the proper hands, Dominion magic rivaled the darkest magic the world had to offer. He wondered he hadn’t come across the woman before now.
“Have you always lived here?”
“In this place?” She shook her head and dark, silken tendrils of hair teased across her slender neck. “It is but a way-station. I live among the nightshades and wraiths beyond Barrowdown.”
“And that one–” Donovan slid a gaze the crone’s way “–knew of you?”
“Does that surprise you?”
“I would have thought her to make use of you.”
Teeva laughed short and hard. “Even one such as her does not make use of the Dominion.”
“But you are not of the Dominion. And you are unbound. You have no people.” He felt the heat of her anger across the space between them, and the corners of his mouth lifted. “Would you have allowed her to bind you?”
“It was never offered.” Her pulse beat fast and hard in the hollow of her throat. Her ample breasts, pushed up above a leather corset, rose and fell in rhythm. Firelight reflected on the slight sheen of her dusky skin. Donovan felt something within him stir.
“And if I were to offer it?”
She stilled, and he waited with hard won patience. Binding her meant her magic would, in essence, become his. He had phrased it as a question, but he did not intend to give her an option. He cared little if she took delight in the prospect or not. A priestess existed to serve, which meant to be bound, if not to her order, then to another who could hold her. Her order would never recognize her. Indeed she had likely been shunned as soon as she reached an age where her magic became apparent. It surprised him she had not been killed–sacrificed as an abomination.
“For what purpose?” she said, her voice tight.
“Whatever purpose I should choose.”
“You ask me to surrender my freedom. What is it I will receive in return?”
“Your life,” Donovan replied. “And I am not asking.”
“You cannot bind me against my will.”
Teeva’s arms sucked to her sides. Her forehead creased as she looked down at the strands of Donovan’s power wound about her like a rope. Donavan thrilled at the touch of her own dark magic when she tried to use it to slice through his. He flicked the blankets back and stood, the cool breeze riffling across his naked skin as he moved to stand behind the priestess. The scent of her intoxicated him. True darkness had a fragrance more potent than any drug, and Teeva reeked of it.
She trembled as he laid his hands on her bare shoulders and lowered his head to whisper in her ear. “Tell me how you will stop me? Even weakened I am stronger than you.”
“What then would you have of me, Lord?” Her hoarse whisper held only a trace of fear.
Donovan slid one hand under her jaw, tipping her head back against his chest so he could see her eyes. “Anything I desire.”
She swallowed, the movement of her throat caressing the palm of his hand. “I live for you.”
“Yes, you do.” He released her and took her hand, lifting her from the stool. She stood nearly his height and met his gaze squarely, hiding nothing–not even the contempt. She did not want to be bound. “It is time we left this place. Have you horses?”
“It will serve.” Donovan would not perform the binding in a rat hole. “We will leave with nightfall. Take only what you require and nothing more.”
“And what of the Lady?”
Donovan smiled. “Prove your worth and your devotion to me and kill her.”
“No!” The inhuman wail preceded Grumnlin into the room. He threw himself at Donovan but Teeva intercepted him. “No kill!”
Donovan wrinkled his nose at the crone’s pet before pulling his attention back to the priestess. “Use whatever manner you see fit.”
“Not,” Grumnlin screeched. “Not, pretty witch.”
“If that thing interferes, send it with her to the veil.” Donovan cupped her face and brought her eyes back to him. “Do we need to discuss this further?”
Grumnlin growled, twisting in Teeva’s grip, arms flailing in an attempt to break free and reach Donovan. Teeva held up her hand. The pulse of her magic slithered under Donovan’s skin and his breath caught in pleasure. The crone’s creature froze, unable to move, its round, dirt-smeared face twisted into a snarl.
“Come, little man,” Teeva said, and turned from Donovan to take Grumnlin’s hand. “Let us walk one last time among the trees, and I will show you wonders you have never seen.”
His face smoothed as Teeva guided him out of the hut with a backwards glance at Donovan. She smiled. “With the nightfall, Lord.”
So far it looks like we’re still on-track for the 3/17 officially release date. If, however, you are interested in a signed, paperback copy, see my Published Works page later this week.